The Best Is Yet To Come.

And the captain of the guard took Seraiah the chief priest, and Zephaniah the second priest and the three keepers of the threshold; and from the city he took an officer who had been in command of the men of war, and seven men of the king’s council, who were found in the city; and the secretary of the commander of the army, who mustered the people of the land; and sixty men of the people of the land, who were found in the midst of the city. And Nebuzaradan the captain of the guard took them and brought them to the king of Babylon at Riblah. And the king of Babylon struck them down and put them to death at Riblah in the land of Hamath. So Judah was taken into exile out of its land.

This is the number of the people whom Nebuchadnezzar carried away captive: in the seventh year, 3,023 Judeans; in the eighteenth year of Nebuchadnezzar he carried away captive from Jerusalem 832 persons; in the twenty-third year of Nebuchadnezzar, Nebuzaradan the captain of the guard carried away captive of the Judeans 745 persons; all the persons were 4,600.

And in the thirty-seventh year of the exile of Jehoiachin king of Judah, in the twelfth month, on the twenty-fifth day of the month, Evil-merodach king of Babylon, in the year that he began to reign, graciously freed Jehoiachin king of Judah and brought him out of prison. And he spoke kindly to him and gave him a seat above the seats of the kings who were with him in Babylon. So Jehoiachin put off his prison garments. And every day of his life he dined regularly at the king’s table, and for his allowance, a regular allowance was given him by the king, according to his daily needs, until the day of his death, as long as he lived. – Jeremiah 52:23-34 ESV

In the closing verses of this chapter, and as way of a wrap-up to the entire book, Jeremiah logs the number of individuals who were taken captive by the Babylonians. But first, he mentions the name of Seraiah, the chief priest. This is evidently a different Seraiah than the one mentioned in chapter 51. This Seraiah, will provide a link back to the reign of Josiah, the last godly king of Judah who had attempted to institute religious reforms in the land. Seraiah’s grandfather, Hilkiah, had been King Josiah’s high priest. It was Hilkiah who had discovered the book of the Law, while supervising renovations to the temple in Jerusalem. And it was this discovery that radically changed the spiritual climate of Judah during the days of King Josiah. But after Josiah’s death, things had taken a markedly negative turn for the worse. The kings who followed Josiah overturned most of his reforms and, once again, led the people in apostasy and idolatry. Hilkiah’s grandson, Seraiah, is listed as one of those murdered by King Nebuchadnezzar. As the high priest, he had failed to live in accordance with the will of God and had not led the people of God to remain faithful. And yet, we know that Seraiah’s sons would be spared and be transported to Babylon along with the other exiles.

Many years later, during the reign of King Artaxerxes of Persia, there was a man named Ezra. He was the son of Seraiah, son of Azariah, son of Hilkiah… – Ezra 7:1 NLT

Ezra would become a reformer, leading the people of Judah from exile in the land of Babylon, back to the land of Canaan. And it would be another grandson of Seraiah, named Jeshua, born to his son Jehozadak, who would become high priest and, alongside Zerubbabel, lead the people in the rebuilding of the temple in Jerusalem.

Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel and Jeshua son of Jehozadak responded by starting again to rebuild the Temple of God in Jerusalem. And the prophets of God were with them and helped them. – Ezra 5:2 NLT

So, while Seraiah would die an ignoble death, his sons, descendants of Aaron, the original priest of God, would play significant roles in the reestablishment of the nation of Judah. God punished those who had played roles in leading the people astray. But God would raise up future leaders who would play significant parts in the restoration of the nation of Judah, the repopulating of Jerusalem and the rebuilding of the temple. He would start with a new generation.

But Jeremiah makes it clear that there were thousands who found themselves bound as prisoners and deported to a life of slavery in Babylon. He states the number of exiles as 4,600, but the book of 2 Kings says the figure was 10, 800. The discrepancy is probably a case of Jeremiah counting only the males and not the women and children who were also taken captive. But suffice it to say, there were many who found their lives radically and irrevocably changed due to the fall of Jerusalem. The emphasis Jeremiah seems to be making is that the number of Jews taken captive was relatively small. This remnant would be transported to Babylon, where they would remain for 70 long years. But at the end of that time, more than 97,000 will return to the land of Judah to rebuilt the city of Jerusalem and restore the former glory of the temple of God. They would experience the blessings of God, even as they lived in exile. He would multiply them and create a remnant to return that far outnumbered those who had been taken captive. Even in the midst of their disobedience and God’s discipline, He would prosper them.

The final section of the book chronicles the fate of Jehoiachin, the former king of Judah. He has the somewhat sad distinction of having been king for only three months.

Jehoiachin was eighteen years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem three months. His mother was Nehushta, the daughter of Elnathan from Jerusalem. Jehoiachin did what was evil in the Lord’s sight, just as his father had done.

During Jehoiachin’s reign, the officers of King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon came up against Jerusalem and besieged it. Nebuchadnezzar himself arrived at the city during the siege. Then King Jehoiachin, along with the queen mother, his advisers, his commanders, and his officials, surrendered to the Babylonians.

In the eighth year of Nebuchadnezzar’s reign, he took Jehoiachin prisoner. – 2 Kings 24:8-12 NLT

So, Jehoiachin had been a prisoner of the Babylonians since 597 B.C., a total of 35 years. But the time came when the new king of Babylon, Evil-merodach, showed him mercy and released him from prison. He replaced his prison clothes with royal robes. He made Jehoiachin a permanent guest at his table and provided him with a regular allowance. In essence, he treated Jehoiachin as the king of Judah, showing him respect, deference and honor, in spite of his defeated status and the non-existent state of his kingdom. So, here is where the book of Jeremiah ends. The king of Judah is in exile and the throne in Jerusalem remains empty. The city is a ghost town. The nation is in disarray. The people are dispersed and disheartened. And for 70 long years, that would remain the state of the people of Judah. But God was not done yet. He had further plans for His people. He would raise up a new high priest. He would call on Zerubbabel and Ezra to lead His people back to the land. Later on, He would raise up Nehemiah to return to Judah and carry on the work. At the close of the book of Jeremiah, things are left in a confused and uncertain state. But God is behind the scenes, working out His divine plan and orchestrating events in such a way that the former exiles would take part in a second, set free from bondage and miraculously returned to the land of promise. God was far from finished. The story was not yet complete. And the book of Ezra opens up with the next chapter of God’s sovereign plan for His people.

He stirred the heart of Cyrus to put this proclamation in writing and to send it throughout his kingdom:

“This is what King Cyrus of Persia says:

“The Lord, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth. He has appointed me to build him a Temple at Jerusalem, which is in Judah. Any of you who are his people may go to Jerusalem in Judah to rebuild this Temple of the Lord, the God of Israel, who lives in Jerusalem. And may your God be with you! Wherever this Jewish remnant is found, let their neighbors contribute toward their expenses by giving them silver and gold, supplies for the journey, and livestock, as well as a voluntary offering for the Temple of God in Jerusalem.” – Ezra 1:2-4 NLT

The best was yet to come.


English Standard Version (ESV)
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

New Living Translation (NLT)
Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

The Message (MSG)

Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

All Is Lost.

In the fifth month, on the tenth day of the month—that was the nineteenth year of King Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon—Nebuzaradan the captain of the bodyguard, who served the king of Babylon, entered Jerusalem. And he burned the house of the Lord, and the king’s house and all the houses of Jerusalem; every great house he burned down. And all the army of the Chaldeans, who were with the captain of the guard, broke down all the walls around Jerusalem. And Nebuzaradan the captain of the guard carried away captive some of the poorest of the people and the rest of the people who were left in the city and the deserters who had deserted to the king of Babylon, together with the rest of the artisans. But Nebuzaradan the captain of the guard left some of the poorest of the land to be vinedressers and plowmen.

And the pillars of bronze that were in the house of the Lord, and the stands and the bronze sea that were in the house of the Lord, the Chaldeans broke in pieces, and carried all the bronze to Babylon. And they took away the pots and the shovels and the snuffers and the basins and the dishes for incense and all the vessels of bronze used in the temple service; also the small bowls and the fire pans and the basins and the pots and the lampstands and the dishes for incense and the bowls for drink offerings. What was of gold the captain of the guard took away as gold, and what was of silver, as silver. As for the two pillars, the one sea, the twelve bronze bulls that were under the sea, and the stands, which Solomon the king had made for the house of the Lord, the bronze of all these things was beyond weight. As for the pillars, the height of the one pillar was eighteen cubits, its circumference was twelve cubits, and its thickness was four fingers, and it was hollow. On it was a capital of bronze. The height of the one capital was five cubits. A network and pomegranates, all of bronze, were around the capital. And the second pillar had the same, with pomegranates. There were ninety-six pomegranates on the sides; all the pomegranates were a hundred upon the network all around. – Jeremiah 52:12-23 ESV

It can be quite easy to read the description of the fall of Jerusalem in a flippant and somewhat disconnected manner. The prophet, Jeremiah, is quite stingy in his use of words, painting a quite matter-of-fact image of the city’s fall. But if we look at other passages in the Scriptures, we get a much fuller and more terrifyingly chilling depiction of all that went on during the nearly 20-month-long siege of Jerusalem and its eventual fall. The book of Lamentations records a particularly disturbing aspect of the siege.

Those killed by the sword are better off   

than those who die of hunger.
Starving, they waste away
    for lack of food from the fields.

Tenderhearted women
    have cooked their own children.
They have eaten them
    to survive the siege. – Lamentations 4:9-10 NLT

The residents of the city had been forced to resort to cannibalism in order to survive. These were not easy days. Starvation was an everyday reality. Parents had to stand back and watch their young children die. And when the walls were finally breached, the death and destruction was like nothing the people of Judah had ever witnessed before. In their weakened state, there was nothing they could do to defend themselves against the Babylonian troops who had were more than ready to seek their revenge on the stubbornly rebellious people inside the walls. The book of Lamentations provides another grisly look at just how bad things were when the walls fell.

Our enemies rape the women in Jerusalem
    and the young girls in all the towns of Judah.
Our princes are being hanged by their thumbs,
    and our elders are treated with contempt.
Young men are led away to work at millstones,
    and boys stagger under heavy loads of wood. – Lamentations 5:10-13 NLT

Nebuchadnezzar took many of the people as captives, leaving nothing but the poorest of the poor to occupy the destroyed city. He stripped the city bare, taking all that was of value, including the treasures of the palace and the temple, as well as the most gifted of all the people. We are provided with a detailed description of the items taken from the temple. The Babylonians left nothing of value untouched. Every ounce of gold, silver or bronze was stripped away and taken as plunder. The sacred vessels, set apart by God for use in the sacrificial system, were hauled off as booty. Not only that, we read in the next section of this chapter that “Nebuzaradan, the captain of the guard, took with him as prisoners Seraiah the high priest, Zephaniah the priest of the second rank, and the three chief gatekeepers” (Jeremiah 52:24 NLT).

The detailed description of the items taken by the Babylonians is similar to what we read in the book of 1 Kings, that describes Solomon’s painstaking and extremely costly construction of the temple many years earlier.

So Solomon finished building the Temple. The entire inside, from floor to ceiling, was paneled with wood. He paneled the walls and ceilings with cedar, and he used planks of cypress for the floors. He partitioned off an inner sanctuary—the Most Holy Place—at the far end of the Temple. It was 30 feet deep and was paneled with cedar from floor to ceiling. The main room of the Temple, outside the Most Holy Place, was 60 feet long. Cedar paneling completely covered the stone walls throughout the Temple, and the paneling was decorated with carvings of gourds and open flowers.

He prepared the inner sanctuary at the far end of the Temple, where the Ark of the Lord’s Covenant would be placed. This inner sanctuary was 30 feet long, 30 feet wide, and 30 feet high. He overlaid the inside with solid gold. He also overlaid the altar made of cedar. Then Solomon overlaid the rest of the Temple’s interior with solid gold, and he made gold chains to protect the entrance to the Most Holy Place. So he finished overlaying the entire Temple with gold, including the altar that belonged to the Most Holy Place.

He made two cherubim of wild olive wood, each 15 feet tall, and placed them in the inner sanctuary. The wingspan of each of the cherubim was 15 feet, each wing being 7 1⁄2 feet long. The two cherubim were identical in shape and size; each was 15 feet tall. He placed them side by side in the inner sanctuary of the Temple. Their outspread wings reached from wall to wall, while their inner wings touched at the center of the room. He overlaid the two cherubim with gold.

He decorated all the walls of the inner sanctuary and the main room with carvings of cherubim, palm trees, and open flowers. He overlaid the floor in both rooms with gold. – 1 Kings 6:14-30 NLT

In a case of divine deconstruction, God reversed the process and turned the former glory of the temple into an empty shell. All that had been set apart to Him was now the property of the Babylonians. The vessels and tools, once integral to the sacrificial system, were now the property of pagans. And the not-so-subtle message to the people of Judah was that, in their determination to reject God, they had rejected all that was associated with Him, including access to His temple and the availability of atonement made possible through the sacrificial system. The temple was destroyed. The priests were now prisoners. And the people had no way of receiving forgiveness for their sins. The people were to learn that turning their backs on God would have dire consequences.

Once again, we must turn to the book of Lamentations to get a clearer understanding of how the fall of Jerusalem impacted the people of God. It is believed that Jeremiah was the author of the book of Lamentations and he is often referred to as “the weeping prophet” because of his close association with this book. In the closing verses of the book, we read the following prayer, described as coming from the mouths of the people of Judah.

But Lord, you remain the same forever!
    Your throne continues from generation to generation.
Why do you continue to forget us?
    Why have you abandoned us for so long?
Restore us, O Lord, and bring us back to you again!
    Give us back the joys we once had!
Or have you utterly rejected us?
    Are you angry with us still? – Lamentations 5:19-22 NLT

The devastation had created a renewed dependency on God in the hearts of the people. The destruction they had witnessed had led to a greater desire for God. Isn’t it interesting how that works? When things are going well, we can find ourselves forgetting all about God. We don’t see the need for Him. But as soon as something goes wrong; our health takes a turn for the worse, our finances falter, our marriage goes south, or our sunny skies turn dark and foreboding, we turn to God. We call out. We question His faithfulness. We demand that He restore our fortunes and make everything bright and cheery again. It’s interesting to note that the people accuse God of rejecting them, but they say nothing of their own rejection of God. They feel abandoned and alone. But they don’t seem to understand that their adandonment by God was due to their own abandonment of Him. But they were right in understanding that God is faithful. They were right in turning to Him. He is our hope in time of need. He is our rock when all else around us is shaky and unstable. He is our faithful Father and loving God. But we must be careful to learn an important lesson from the people of Judah. In their prayer, they state, “Give us back the joys we once had!” Notice what is behind that statement or demand. They want things to go back to the way they were. They want restoration of their former good fortunes. In other words, they want a return to the status quo. They want their old lives back, not God. God was simply a means to an end for them. And we can be guilty of treating God the same way. We go to Him, asking Him to return us to health, to restore our marriage, to fix our financial problems, to make all the hurts and heartaches of life to go away. But what God really wants is for us to desire Him. He wants us to long for Him above anything and everything else in life. The people of Judah didn’t need their old lives back, they needed God.

English Standard Version (ESV)
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

New Living Translation (NLT)
Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

The Message (MSG)

Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

Fallen, But Not Finished.

Zedekiah was twenty-one years old when he became king, and he reigned eleven years in Jerusalem. His mother's name was Hamutal the daughter of Jeremiah of Libnah. And he did what was evil in the sight of the Lord, according to all that Jehoiakim had done. For because of the anger of the Lord it came to the point in Jerusalem and Judah that he cast them out from his presence.

And Zedekiah rebelled against the king of Babylon. And in the ninth year of his reign, in the tenth month, on the tenth day of the month, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came with all his army against Jerusalem, and laid siege to it. And they built siegeworks all around it. So the city was besieged till the eleventh year of King Zedekiah. On the ninth day of the fourth month the famine was so severe in the city that there was no food for the people of the land. Then a breach was made in the city, and all the men of war fled and went out from the city by night by the way of a gate between the two walls, by the king's garden, and the Chaldeans were around the city. And they went in the direction of the Arabah. But the army of the Chaldeans pursued the king and overtook Zedekiah in the plains of Jericho, and all his army was scattered from him. Then they captured the king and brought him up to the king of Babylon at Riblah in the land of Hamath, and he passed sentence on him. The king of Babylon slaughtered the sons of Zedekiah before his eyes, and also slaughtered all the officials of Judah at Riblah. He put out the eyes of Zedekiah, and bound him in chains, and the king of Babylon took him to Babylon, and put him in prison till the day of his death. – Jeremiah 52:1-11 ESV

Approximately five years has passed since Seraiah had traveled to Babylon as part of the king’s royal retinue to visit King Nebuchadnezzar. While there, Seraiah had followed Jeremiah’s instructions and had read the contents of the scroll he had been given, containing God’s oracles against Babylon. Then, he had tied a stone to the scroll and thrown it into the Euphrates River. King Zedekiah, Seraiah, and the rest of the officials from Judah who had traveled to Babylon had eventually returned. And after a five year hiatus, the Babylonians had shown up at the gates of Jerusalem. During the five years since his trip to Babylon, Zedekiah had chosen to rebel against King Nebuchadnezzar, attempting to make alliances with other nations, including Egypt. God had warned Zedekiah and the people of Judah to submit to the Babylonians. If they did as God had said, things would go well for them. If they disobeyed, things would go extremely bad. Zedekiah’s decision to rebel against Nebuchadnezzar’s authority was really an act of rebellion against God. God had made it perfectly clear what He expected the people of Judah to do.

“This is what the Lord says: ‘Everyone who stays in Jerusalem will die from war, famine, or disease, but those who surrender to the Babylonians will live. Their reward will be life. They will live!’” – Jeremiah 38:2 NLT

But King Zedekiah and the people refused to listen to the words of God as spoken through the prophet, Jeremiah. And chapter 39 of the book of Jeremiah records what happened.

In January of the ninth year of King Zedekiah’s reign, King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon came with his entire army to besiege Jerusalem. Two and a half years later, on July 18 in the eleventh year of Zedekiah’s reign, a section of the city wall was broken down. All the officers of the Babylonian army came in and sat in triumph at the Middle Gate: Nergal-sharezer of Samgar, and Nebo-sarsekim, a chief officer, and Nergal-sharezer, the king’s adviser, and all the other officers of the king of Babylon. – Jeremiah 39:1-3 NLT

In the ninth year of Zedekiah’s reign, Nebuchadnezzar began his siege of Jerusalem. Just ever two years later, the Babylonians breached the walls of the city and the destruction began. Zedekiah and his troops attempted to escape the city, but were overtaken by the Babylonians. Zedekiah was forced to watch as his sons were murdered right in front of him. Then, he had his eyes gouged out. The last sight he would have seen was his own sons’ brutal deaths.

Jeremiah makes it quite clear why these things happened.

But Zedekiah did what was evil in the Lord’s sight, just as Jehoiakim had done. These things happened because of the Lord’s anger against the people of Jerusalem and Judah, until he finally banished them from his presence and sent them into exile. – Jeremiah 52:2-3 NLT

Zedekiah, like so many of the kings of Judah before him, was evil. He was idolatrous and full of pride and arrogance. He had refused to listen to God. He had determined to rule his kingdom according to his own standards. And, in spite of God’s persistent warnings of looming judgment, Zedekiah continued to disobey and disregard God’s words. He thought he could somehow escape the destruction God had ordained. He truly believed that he could make an alliance with Egypt and get their help in overthrowing the Babylonians. But even Egypt would fall to the Babylonians at the battle of Carchemish. And while the Egyptians would eventually show back up and attempt to aid Judah against the Babylonians, they would end up returning to Egypt with their tails between their legs, leaving Judah on their own. And did fall.

Zedekiah represents the last of the kings in the Davidic line. There would be no other king to reign from the line of Judah. It would not be until Jesus showed up and was born to Mary, a descendant of David, that the line of David would be reestablished. Jesus is and will be the next king of Israel. He is the rightful heir to the throne of David. In the genealogy of Jesus, found in Matthew 1, He is shown to be a descendant of Abraham and David through Joseph, His legal father. In the genealogy recorded in Luke 3, His lineage is traced through Mary, and reveals that Jesus is a descendant of David by blood. And in Romans, chapter 1, Paul reminded his audience that Jesus was the long-awaited Messiah, the fulfillment of God’s promise to David.

The Good News is about his Son. In his earthly life he was born into King David’s family line, and he was shown to be the Son of God when he was raised from the dead by the power of the Holy Spirit. He is Jesus Christ our Lord. – Romans 1:3-4 NLT

God had made a promise to David.

“‘Furthermore, the Lord declares that he will make a house for you—a dynasty of kings! For when you die and are buried with your ancestors, I will raise up one of your descendants, your own offspring, and I will make his kingdom strong. He is the one who will build a house—a temple—for my name. And I will secure his royal throne forever. I will be his father, and he will be my son. If he sins, I will correct and discipline him with the rod, like any father would do. But my favor will not be taken from him as I took it from Saul, whom I removed from your sight. Your house and your kingdom will continue before me for all time, and your throne will be secure forever.’” – 2 Samuel 7:11-16 NLT

While Solomon would be the short-term answer to this promise, his kingdom would end. His disobedience and unfaithfulness would result in God splitting the kingdom of Israel in half. And the kings of Judah who would follow him would be anything but faithful to God. But Jesus, the Son of God and the son of David, would be the ultimate fulfillment of God’s promise. While Solomon built a physical temple for God, Jesus would build a spiritual temple. Paul would tell the believers in Corinth, “Don't you realize that all of you together are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God lives in you?” (1 Corinthians 3:16 NLT). He said the very same thing to the believers in Ephesus:

Together, we are his house, built on the foundation of the apostles and the prophets. And the cornerstone is Christ Jesus himself. We are carefully joined together in him, becoming a holy temple for the Lord. Through him you Gentiles are also being made part of this dwelling where God lives by his Spirit. – Ephesians 2:20-22 NLT

So, while the temple of Solomon would be destroyed by the Babylonians, the temple of God, made up of all of those who place their trust in Jesus as their Savior, is alive and well. The kingdom of Jesus has no end. His temple, the body of Christ, is incapable of being destroyed. King Zedekiah would live out his days in Babylon, blind and as a slave to those who had conquered him. The kings of Judah had abandoned God, but it was He who ended up abandoning them. But He will be faithful to His people. He will one day provide them with a true King, a righteous and just King. And this coming King will rule once again from the throne of David in the royal city of Jerusalem. And His reign will last 1,000 years. Then, God will remake the heavens and the earth. He will restore creation to its original glory. And He will establish a new Jerusalem. And as the apostle John reveals in his book of the Revelation, this new Jerusalem will have no need of a physical temple.

And I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb. And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb. By its light will the nations walk, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it, and its gates will never be shut by day—and there will be no night there. They will bring into it the glory and the honor of the nations. But nothing unclean will ever enter it, nor anyone who does what is detestable or false, but only those who are written in the Lamb's book of life. – Revelation 21:22-27 NLT

Something new and better is coming. God is not done yet. The fate of Jerusalem and the people of God is not yet complete. And, in spite of the unfaithfulness of the kings of Israel and Judah, God is going to remain faithful, keeping His Word and fulfilling every promise He has made.

English Standard Version (ESV)
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

New Living Translation (NLT)
Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

The Message (MSG)

Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

One Final Word.

The word that Jeremiah the prophet commanded Seraiah the son of Neriah, son of Mahseiah, when he went with Zedekiah king of Judah to Babylon, in the fourth year of his reign. Seraiah was the quartermaster. Jeremiah wrote in a book all the disaster that should come upon Babylon, all these words that are written concerning Babylon. And Jeremiah said to Seraiah: “When you come to Babylon, see that you read all these words, and say, ‘O Lord, you have said concerning this place that you will cut it off, so that nothing shall dwell in it, neither man nor beast, and it shall be desolate forever.’ When you finish reading this book, tie a stone to it and cast it into the midst of the Euphrates, and say, ‘Thus shall Babylon sink, to rise no more, because of the disaster that I am bringing upon her, and they shall become exhausted.’”

Thus far are the words of Jeremiah. – Jeremiah 51:59-64 ESV

In 593 B.C., King Zedekiah of Judah, who had been placed on the throne by Nebuchadnezzar, King of Babylon, was summoned by the Babylonian king to make a trip the royal capital. The prophet, Jeremiah, found out about this trip, because his scribe, Baruch, had a brother who was on the payroll for the king. In fact, he was the king’s quartermaster, which probably meant that he took care of all the housing needs of the king when he traveled. So, Jeremiah became aware of the king’s travel plans and provided Seraiah, the brother of Baruch, with a scroll containing all the oracles of God against the nation of Babylon. It is important to recognize that this story takes place long before Nebuchadnezzar destroyed the city of Jerusalem in 586 B.C. It was at that time, Zedekiah the king was captured by the Babylonians and brutally repayed for his rebellion against Nebuchadnezzar.

They captured the king and took him to the king of Babylon at Riblah, where they pronounced judgment upon Zedekiah. They made Zedekiah watch as they slaughtered his sons. Then they gouged out Zedekiah’s eyes, bound him in bronze chains, and led him away to Babylon. – 2 Kings 25:6-7 NLT

But seven years earlier, Nebuchadnezzar had summoned Zedekiah to Babylon for what was likely a conference of all the vassal kings who reigned over their respective nations at the whim of the Babylonian king. So, when Zedekiah and his retinue made the lengthy trip to Babylon, Seraiah carried something extra in his luggage: A scroll containing God’s very detailed description of Babylon’s coming fall. And Seraiah had very clear instructions from the prophet what he was to do when he arrived in the capital city of Babylon. He was to read the scroll out loud, then pronounce the words, “Lord, you have said that you will destroy Babylon so that neither people nor animals will remain here. She will lie empty and abandoned forever” (Jeremiah 51:62 NLT). At that point, he was to tie a stone to the scroll and toss it into the Euphrates River.

All of this sounds a bit odd to us. It comes across as a tad too theatrical and unnecessary. Was it really that important, in the grand scheme of things, that Seraiah carry a scroll all the way to Babylon, read its dire pronouncements out loud and then toss it into a river? Well, it seems that God had deemed it so. This was likely not Jeremiah’s idea. And it was not the first set of strange instructions God had given His prophet. By this time, Jeremiah had grown accustomed to God’s somewhat strange penchant for dramatic displays. God does not provide Jeremiah with any reasons for this bizarre bit of dramatic activity. And it unlikely that what Seraiah had been asked to do was in way necessary for God to accomplish His divine plans for Babylon’s eventual fall. The reading of the contents of the scroll and its submersion in the waters of the Euphrates were not meant to act as some kind of magical charm or curse against Babylon. They were purely symbolic statements of God’s power and His sovereignty over the nations. God was using Zedekiah, the rebellious king of Judah, to carry a divine decree against the enemies of Judah. It is unlikely that Zedekiah knew anything about the scroll hidden in Seraiah’s luggage. Had he known, he would have taken action against his employee and destroyed the scroll. And it also unlikely that Seraiah read the scroll in the hearing of Zedekiah and the rest of the royal retinue, let alone in the hearing of the people of Judah. The would have resulted in a death sentence on Seraiah. And it was not necessary. It was not important that anyone heard the words the Seraiah read. This would be a symbolic gesture, where God arranged for His words against Babylon to be carried right through the gates of the great city and thrown into the very waters of the great river that flowed through the land.

It is interesting to note that, in the book of Revelations, written hundreds of years later, the apostle John records the following vision concerning Babylon, given to Him by God.

Then a mighty angel picked up a boulder the size of a huge millstone. He threw it into the ocean and shouted,

“Just like this, the great city Babylon
    will be thrown down with violence
    and will never be found again.” – Revelation 18:21 NLT

Seraiah would tie a simple stone to a scroll and throw it in the waters of the Euphrates. But God would turn eventually reenact that scene, with the stone being transformed into a bolder. His Word, written on the scroll, would have a powerful impact on the nation of Babylon. When Seraiah had completed his task, he probably stood back and watched the scroll sink into the water, and then walked away, unimpressed. Nothing had happened. There was not change in the circumstances of his day. He would go back to the king and eventually make the return trip to Judah along with the rest of his coworkers. But God had spoken. His Word had been proclaimed, in Judah and all the way to the streets of Babylon.

There was destruction coming to the land of Babylon. God had made that perfectly clear. And while the Babylon of Jeremiah’s day would not be fully and completely destroyed when the Persians defeated them, that does not disqualify the prophecies contained in the book of Jeremiah. There seems to be an indication that Babylon carries a symbolic meaning. Whether or not the actual city of Babylon will one day be rebuilt and the nation of Babyon restored is not clear. And it is probably not necessary for the oracles declared in Jeremiah’s book to be fulfilled. Chapters 17 and 18 of the Book of Revelation describe the future fall of Babylon, but this does not have to mean a literal nation of Babylon. It may simply refer to a reincarnation of the spirit of Babylon in the form of another nation or alliances of nations. Nebuchadnezzar and his Babylonian Empire were accused by God of pride, idolatry and rebellion against God and His people. And that spirit is alive and well. We have seen more than a few examples of nations who set themselves up against God and the people of God. We have plenty of examples in our current cultural context of nations that practice all kinds of idolatry and who refuse to acknowledge God as the one true God. This tendency on the part of men and the governments they establish will only increase over time. And the day is coming when there will arise either a literal or figurative Babylon, a mighty nation that will stand in opposition to God and all that He represents. But that nation, like the one in Jeremiah’s day, will fall. The pride of man, exhibited in the governments and nations established by men, will prove defenseless before the sovereignty of God Almighty. As God so clearly states at the end of this chapter:

“In this same way Babylon and her people will sink, never again to rise, because of the disasters I will bring upon her.” – Jeremiah 51:64 NLT

English Standard Version (ESV)
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

New Living Translation (NLT)
Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

The Message (MSG)

Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

The War of the Wills.

“Go out of the midst of her, my people!
    Let every one save his life
    from the fierce anger of the Lord!
Let not your heart faint, and be not fearful
    at the report heard in the land,
when a report comes in one year
    and afterward a report in another year,
and violence is in the land,
    and ruler is against ruler.

“Therefore, behold, the days are coming
    when I will punish the images of Babylon;
her whole land shall be put to shame,
    and all her slain shall fall in the midst of her.
Then the heavens and the earth,
    and all that is in them,
shall sing for joy over Babylon,
    for the destroyers shall come against them out of the north,
declares the Lord.
Babylon must fall for the slain of Israel,
    just as for Babylon have fallen the slain of all the earth.

“You who have escaped from the sword,
    go, do not stand still!
Remember the Lord from far away,
    and let Jerusalem come into your mind:
‘We are put to shame, for we have heard reproach;
    dishonor has covered our face,
for foreigners have come
    into the holy places of the Lord's house.’

“Therefore, behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord,
    when I will execute judgment upon her images,
and through all her land
    the wounded shall groan.
Though Babylon should mount up to heaven,
    and though she should fortify her strong height,
yet destroyers would come from me against her,
    declares the Lord.

“I will make drunk her officials and her wise men,
    her governors, her commanders, and her warriors;
they shall sleep a perpetual sleep and not wake,
    declares the King, whose name is the Lord of hosts.

“Thus says the Lord of hosts:
The broad wall of Babylon
    shall be leveled to the ground,
and her high gates
    shall be burned with fire.
The peoples labor for nothing,
    and the nations weary themselves only for fire.” – Jeremiah 51:45-58 ESV

We’ve all met strong-willed individuals. Perhaps you have raised or are in the process of raising a child with a stronger-than-normal will. They tend to want to get their way. They can be very demanding and are usually not afraid to let others know what they are thinking and what it is they think they deserve, want or need. Can you imagine how many strong-willed people God deals with on a daily basis? Consider the number of people He has run into over the centuries who thought their will was more important than His own. If you think about it, every person who has ever lived fits into that category. Because of the fall, all of mankind was born strong-willed and self-obsessed. We all came out of the womb like little gods, demanding our way as soon as we could make a sound. The human will is the battleground on which the war between mankind and their Creator wages day after day, and it has been going on since God made Adam. When God told Adam, “Thou shall not…”, there arose in the first man’s heart the spark of self-awareness that responded, “Yes, I shall…” And the battle over control began. Adam and his newly formed bride didn’t take long to decide that their wills were more important than God’s. Their passions and desires quickly took precedence over God’s commands. Their attraction to the forbidden fruit and all that the enemy said it offered them overwhelmed any desire they had to obey God. Their wills won the day.

As God continues His quite lengthy oracle concerning Babylon, it is important to note that much of what He is dealing with is man’s innate need to be in control, to be the master of his own fate. The nations God has addressed over the last few chapters of the book of Jeremiah are corporate representations of man’s fallen state, and Babylon holds the distinction of being the epitome of willful arrogance and pride. Nebuchadnezzar was the poster-boy of pride. The book of Daniel tells the story of his pride reaching its zenith and God’s divine response to his unchecked arrogance and self-adulation.

God had given the king a dream, which Daniel had interpreted for him. Daniel had given the king the meaning of the dream, warning him:

“You will be driven from human society, and you will live in the fields with the wild animals. You will eat grass like a cow, and you will be drenched with the dew of heaven. Seven periods of time will pass while you live this way, until you learn that the Most High rules over the kingdoms of the world and gives them to anyone he chooses.” – Daniel 4:25 NLT

But the king didn’t take Daniel’s words seriously. And in a relatively short period of time, Nebuchadnezzar would learn the painful truth behind what Daniel had told him.

“But all these things did happen to King Nebuchadnezzar. Twelve months later he was taking a walk on the flat roof of the royal palace in Babylon. As he looked out across the city, he said, ‘Look at this great city of Babylon! By my own mighty power, I have built this beautiful city as my royal residence to display my majestic splendor.’

“While these words were still in his mouth, a voice called down from heaven, ‘O King Nebuchadnezzar, this message is for you! You are no longer ruler of this kingdom. You will be driven from human society. You will live in the fields with the wild animals, and you will eat grass like a cow. Seven periods of time will pass while you live this way, until you learn that the Most High rules over the kingdoms of the world and gives them to anyone he chooses.’” – Daniel 4:28-32 NLT

And it happened just as God had said it would.

“That same hour the judgment was fulfilled, and Nebuchadnezzar was driven from human society. He ate grass like a cow, and he was drenched with the dew of heaven. He lived this way until his hair was as long as eagles’ feathers and his nails were like birds’ claws.” – Daniel 4:33 NLT

He went from walking along the parapets of his palace, bragging about his many exploits and personal accomplishments, to crawling around on all fours, eating grace like an animal. What separates man from the rest of creation is the fact that he was made in the image of God. But when man attempts to replace God’s image with his own, he becomes little more than an just another animal. Mankind’s capacity for reasoning, while it may set him apart from the rest of the animal kingdom, can also be his downfall. That was the lesson to be learned in God’s ongoing oracle against Babylon. God warns the pride-filled residents of Babylon:

“Though Babylon reaches as high as the heavens
    and makes her fortifications incredibly strong,
I will still send enemies to plunder her.
    I, the Lord, have spoken!” – Jeremiah 51:53 NLT

God’s wording brings recalls the days in which he destroyed the tower of Babel, a pride-motivated building project taken on by the ancient predecessors of the Babylonians. God had commanded Adam and Eve, along with their descendants, to fill the earth. But the book of Genesis tells us that the people decided to do things their way, according to their own wills.

At one time all the people of the world spoke the same language and used the same words. As the people migrated to the east, they found a plain in the land of Babylonia[a] and settled there.

They began saying to each other, “Let’s make bricks and harden them with fire.” (In this region bricks were used instead of stone, and tar was used for mortar.) Then they said, “Come, let’s build a great city for ourselves with a tower that reaches into the sky. This will make us famous and keep us from being scattered all over the world.” – Genesis 11:1-4 NLT

Essentially they said, “We know better.” They decided their plan was better than God’s. They desired fame more than they did following God’s revealed will. So, God stepped in and, just as He did with King Nebuchadnezzar, God knocked the residents of ancient Babel down a few notches.

But the Lord came down to look at the city and the tower the people were building. “Look!” he said. “The people are united, and they all speak the same language. After this, nothing they set out to do will be impossible for them! Come, let’s go down and confuse the people with different languages. Then they won’t be able to understand each other.”

In that way, the Lord scattered them all over the world, and they stopped building the city. That is why the city was called Babel, because that is where the Lord confused the people with different languages. In this way he scattered them all over the world. – Genesis 11:5-9 NLT

King Nebuchadnezzar had his thinking confused and literally lost his mind. The people of Babel had their language confused and literally lost the capacity to communicate. Adam and Even had their moral compass confused and literally lost their communion with God. And in each case, the human will was the culprit. They had decided to do battle with God over and engage in a war of the will – and they lost. Man will always lose that battle. Oh, there may appear to be times with man’s will wins out. It may look as though we are getting our way and reaping the benefits of our own self-centered, egotistical plan. But in the end, God’s will always wins. Adam and Eve got what they wanted: The forbidden fruit. But they lost what they really needed: Communion with God. Nebuchadnezzar got the joy of standing on his palace roof and marveling over the mighty kingdom he had built. But he lost his mind. The people of Babel began an aggressive building program to construct a monument to their own human ingenuity and corporate capabilities. But they lost the ability to understand one another.

Man’s ongoing attempt to win the battle of the wills is a lost cause. Any minor victories we enjoy will always end in defeat. Any attempt on our part to exert our wills and force our way on the sovereign plans of God will prove hopeless and futile in the end. And God’s dire warning to Babylon should be a sobering reminder to us all that God’s will always wins.

This is what the Lord of Heaven’s Armies says:
“The thick walls of Babylon will be leveled to the ground,
    and her massive gates will be burned.
The builders from many lands have worked in vain,
    for their work will be destroyed by fire!” – Jeremiah 51:58 NLT

English Standard Version (ESV)
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

New Living Translation (NLT)
Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

The Message (MSG)

Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

The God of Destiny.

Therefore thus says the Lord:
“Behold, I will plead your cause
    and take vengeance for you.
I will dry up her sea
    and make her fountain dry,
and Babylon shall become a heap of ruins,
    the haunt of jackals,
a horror and a hissing,
    without inhabitant.

“They shall roar together like lions;
    they shall growl like lions' cubs.
While they are inflamed I will prepare them a feast
    and make them drunk, that they may become merry,
then sleep a perpetual sleep
    and not wake, declares the Lord.
I will bring them down like lambs to the slaughter,
    like rams and male goats.

“How Babylon is taken,
    the praise of the whole earth seized!
How Babylon has become
    a horror among the nations!
The sea has come up on Babylon;
    she is covered with its tumultuous waves.
Her cities have become a horror,
    a land of drought and a desert,
a land in which no one dwells,
    and through which no son of man passes.
And I will punish Bel in Babylon,
    and take out of his mouth what he has swallowed.
The nations shall no longer flow to him;
    the wall of Babylon has fallen.” – Jeremiah 51:36-44 ESV


Babylon was the greatest nation on earth during the time in which this oracle of God was written. They had been on a significant winning streak, having conquered a wide range of nations, both large and small. They were the playground bully of that age. And all lived in fear of them. No one had been able to stand against them. The mightiest armies had fallen before them. But God has made it perfectly clear that His sovereign rule and Almighty power was greater than that of Nebuchadnezzar and his vaunted troops. It was Yahweh, the God of Israel and Judah, who was invincible and a force to be reckoned with. It was He who commanded the greatest army on earth or in heaven. He was the Lord of Heaven’s Armies. The chariots, infantrymen, archers and siege engines of Babylon were no match for Him. And the very fact that Nebuchadnezzar and his administrative cronies believed they were the top dog in the kennel was laughable at best. King Nebuchadnezzar’s reign and far-reaching empire we nothing but a minor dot on God’s eternal timeline.

The great king of Babylon would eventually be replaced by yet another king, who deemed himself a virtual deity, with all the power and influence to match. In fact, Nebuchadnezzar would eventually give way to Belshazzar, who would rule over the expansive and highly impressive Babylonian empire. And during his reign, God would pay a special visit to the king and his guests at a special banquet where they were using the sacred vessels his predecessor had plundered from the temple in Jerusalem many years before. 

Many years later King Belshazzar gave a great feast for 1,000 of his nobles, and he drank wine with them. While Belshazzar was drinking the wine, he gave orders to bring in the gold and silver cups that his predecessor, Nebuchadnezzar, had taken from the Temple in Jerusalem. He wanted to drink from them with his nobles, his wives, and his concubines. So they brought these gold cups taken from the Temple, the house of God in Jerusalem, and the king and his nobles, his wives, and his concubines drank from them. While they drank from them they praised their idols made of gold, silver, bronze, iron, wood, and stone. – Daniel 5:1-4 NLT  

What audacity. What arrogance. Here was this pagan king, entertaining his drunken assemblage of courtiers and guests, and using the holy vessels from the temple of God to serve his wine. Not only that, they ridiculed God by praising their own false gods, attributing to them honor for their victory over the nation of Judah. But God was watching, and He was not amused. So, God Almighty decided to crash the king’s party.

Suddenly, they saw the fingers of a human hand writing on the plaster wall of the king’s palace, near the lampstand. The king himself saw the hand as it wrote, and his face turned pale with fright. His knees knocked together in fear and his legs gave way beneath him. – Daniel 5:5-6 NLT

The finger of God had written a message for the king, but it was illegible and undecipherable. None of his enchanters, astrologers, or fortune-tellers could tell him what the writing on the wall meant. So, the queen’s mother suggested he send for Daniel, the Hebrew who King Nebuchadnezzar had appointed as chief over all his magicians, wise men, and fortune-tellers. The king’s mother describes Daniel in flattering terms: “This man Daniel, whom the king named Belteshazzar, has exceptional ability and is filled with divine knowledge and understanding. He can interpret dreams, explain riddles, and solve difficult problems” (Daniel 51:12 NLT). And when Daniel showed up in the king’s court, he interpreted the handwriting on the wall and delivered its meaning to the king.

Your Majesty, the Most High God gave sovereignty, majesty, glory, and honor to your predecessor, Nebuchadnezzar. He made him so great that people of all races and nations and languages trembled before him in fear. He killed those he wanted to kill and spared those he wanted to spare. He honored those he wanted to honor and disgraced those he wanted to disgrace. But when his heart and mind were puffed up with arrogance, he was brought down from his royal throne and stripped of his glory. He was driven from human society. He was given the mind of a wild animal, and he lived among the wild donkeys. He ate grass like a cow, and he was drenched with the dew of heaven, until he learned that the Most High God rules over the kingdoms of the world and appoints anyone he desires to rule over them.” – Daniel 51:18-21 NLT

Daniel gave the king a brief history lesson on his predecessor’s painful lesson on pride that he had suffered at the hands of God. While King Belshazzar had known all about this event in Nebuchadnezzar’s life, he had chosen to ignore it and learn nothing from it – as his recent behavior at the party clearly revealed. So, Daniel gives the king some bad news.

“You are his successor, O Belshazzar, and you knew all this, yet you have not humbled yourself. For you have proudly defied the Lord of heaven and have had these cups from his Temple brought before you. You and your nobles and your wives and concubines have been drinking wine from them while praising gods of silver, gold, bronze, iron, wood, and stone—gods that neither see nor hear nor know anything at all. But you have not honored the God who gives you the breath of life and controls your destiny! So God has sent this hand to write this message.” – Daniel 5:22-24 NLT

Belshazzar had a pride problem, just like Nebuchadnezzar had. And Daniel reminds the king that his kingdom and his life were given to him by God. His destiny was in God’s hands, not his own. And the future of his kingdom was far from being controlled by lifeless gods “that neither see nor hear not know anything at all.” Then, Daniel gives the king the meaning behind the indecipherable words written on the wall.

“This is what these words mean:

“Mene means ‘numbered’—God has numbered the days of your reign and has brought it to an end.
Tekel means ‘weighed’—you have been weighed on the balances and have not measured up.
Parsin means ‘divided’—your kingdom has been divided and given to the Medes and Persians.” – Daniel 5:26-28 NLT

The end was near. Belshazzar’s days were numbered. His great kingdom and his overblown pride were about to be destroyed by God. Which brings us back to our passage in Jeremiah. God uses the metaphor of drinking and drunkenness to warn the nation of Babylon of their coming doom.

“And while they lie inflamed with all their wine,
    I will prepare a different kind of feast for them.
I will make them drink until they fall asleep,
    and they will never wake up again,”
    says the Lord. – Jeremiah 51:39 NLT

The Babylonians would ultimately fall to the Medes and Persians. But the eschatological Babylon, the personification of all that is evil and wicked in the world, will also be destroyed when Christ returns to earth. The pride of man will be snuffed out once and for all. The arrogance of the creation will removed by the Creator. The false gods of the earth will be eliminated, never to be seen or worshiped again. It is God who holds the fate of the world in His hands. It is God who gives life and takes it away. It is God who controls the destinies of all, from kings to commoners, dictators to despots, and the prideful to the hopeless.

English Standard Version (ESV)
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

New Living Translation (NLT)
Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

The Message (MSG)

Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

The Pride of the Nations.

“You are my hammer and weapon of war:
with you I break nations in pieces;
    with you I destroy kingdoms;
with you I break in pieces the horse and his rider;
    with you I break in pieces the chariot and the charioteer;
with you I break in pieces man and woman;
    with you I break in pieces the old man and the youth;
with you I break in pieces the young man and the young woman;
    with you I break in pieces the shepherd and his flock;
with you I break in pieces the farmer and his team;
    with you I break in pieces governors and commanders.

“I will repay Babylon and all the inhabitants of Chaldea before your very eyes for all the evil that they have done in Zion, declares the Lord.

“Behold, I am against you, O destroying mountain,
declares the Lord,
    which destroys the whole earth;
I will stretch out my hand against you,
    and roll you down from the crags,
    and make you a burnt mountain.
No stone shall be taken from you for a corner
    and no stone for a foundation,
but you shall be a perpetual waste,
    declares the Lord.

“Set up a standard on the earth;
    blow the trumpet among the nations;
prepare the nations for war against her;
    summon against her the kingdoms,
    Ararat, Minni, and Ashkenaz;
appoint a marshal against her;
    bring up horses like bristling locusts.
Prepare the nations for war against her,
    the kings of the Medes, with their governors and deputies,
    and every land under their dominion.
The land trembles and writhes in pain,
    for the Lord's purposes against Babylon stand,
to make the land of Babylon a desolation,
    without inhabitant.
The warriors of Babylon have ceased fighting;
    they remain in their strongholds;
their strength has failed;
    they have become women;
her dwellings are on fire;
    her bars are broken.
One runner runs to meet another,
    and one messenger to meet another,
to tell the king of Babylon
    that his city is taken on every side;
the fords have been seized,
    the marshes are burned with fire,
    and the soldiers are in panic.
For thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel:
The daughter of Babylon is like a threshing floor
    at the time when it is trodden;
yet a little while
    and the time of her harvest will come.”

“Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon has devoured me;
    he has crushed me;
he has made me an empty vessel;
    he has swallowed me like a monster;
he has filled his stomach with my delicacies;
    he has rinsed me out.
The violence done to me and to my kinsmen be upon Babylon,”
    let the inhabitant of Zion say.
“My blood be upon the inhabitants of Chaldea,”
    let Jerusalem say. – Jeremiah 51:20-34 ESV


Ten times in this section, God refers to an unknown entity with whom He would break the nation of Babylon. He calls this unnamed nation or alliance of nations “my hammer and weapon of war.” Repeatedly He states, “with you I break in pieces”, and then describes the various people and places He will destroy using this instrument of destruction. And the primary focus of their attention will be the nation of Babylon.

“I will repay Babylon
    and the people of Babylonia
for all the wrong they have done
    to my people in Jerusalem,” says the Lord. – Jeremiah 51:24 NLT

God describes Babylon as a “ destroying mountain,” but they will prove no match for Him. Mountains are an image of stability and power, immovable and virtually insurmountable. They appear as barriers and serve as protection to nations, denying easy access to their borders by their enemies. Babylon was massive and a force with which to be reckoned, but God warns them, “When I am finished, you will be nothing but a heap of burnt rubble” (Jeremiah 51:25 NLT).

God issues a battle cry, summoning the forces of Ararat, Minni, and Ashkenaz. These were nations located to the north of Babylon. They would join the Medes in forming a massive army, with the horses of this combined army descending on Babylon like locusts. The result of this alliance on Babylon would be devastating. They would stand no chance. And in just a limited amount of time, the once great nation of Babylon would be completely destroyed, wiped off the map.

Babylon will be left desolate without a single inhabitant. – Jeremiah 51:29 NLT

But as we have noticed before, this has to refer to an as-yet-unfulfilled event, because when the Babylonians fell to the Persians in 539 BC, the nation was not wiped off the face of the earth. The city of Babylon was spared and made a part of the Persian empire. The people of Babylon were simply assimilated into the Persian culture. But what God is describing here, through His prophet, Jeremiah, is the complete annihilation of Babylon. That has not yet happened. And while there is no nation of Babylon at the present time, there is a day coming when Babylon will rise again and become a major force during the end times. Whether or not the actual city of Babylon will be rebuilt is not entirely clear. But the spirit of the nation of Babylon has continued on through the centuries, even after its fall to the Persians. It’s love for wealth, power, and domination can be found throughout the nations of the earth and will only increase in intensity after the rapture of the church. The period of the tribulation will be marked with the rise of the antichrist, who will rule at the head of a world-confederation of nations. This new-Babylon will put the original nation to shame in terms of its decadence, power, and devastating influence over the world scene. Daniel provides a glimpse of what this day will look like.

Then he said to me, “This fourth beast is the fourth world power that will rule the earth. It will be different from all the others. It will devour the whole world, trampling and crushing everything in its path. Its ten horns are ten kings who will rule that empire. Then another king will arise, different from the other ten, who will subdue three of them. He will defy the Most High and oppress the holy people of the Most High. He will try to change their sacred festivals and laws, and they will be placed under his control for a time, times, and half a time.

“But then the court will pass judgment, and all his power will be taken away and completely destroyed. Then the sovereignty, power, and greatness of all the kingdoms under heaven will be given to the holy people of the Most High. His kingdom will last forever, and all rulers will serve and obey him.” – Daniel 7:23-27 NLT

This was part of a vision given to Daniel who was exiled to Babylon along with the rest of the people of Judah. God gave him this vision during the reign of King Belshazzar of Babylon. This vision was a God-ordained glimpse into the distant future, providing a detailed description of the fall of this future “Babylon.” And the book of Revelation provides yet another description of her fall.

“She glorified herself and lived in luxury,
    so match it now with torment and sorrow.
She boasted in her heart,
    ‘I am queen on my throne.
I am no helpless widow,
    and I have no reason to mourn.’
Therefore, these plagues will overtake her in a single day—
    death and mourning and famine.
She will be completely consumed by fire,
    for the Lord God who judges her is mighty.” – Revelation 18:7-8 NLT

Like the Babylon of Jeremiah’s day, this future Babylon will be marked by pride, arrogance, a love of wealth and luxury, and an obsession with world domination. But all the nations of the world that chose to do business with her would one day stand back in wonder, dumbstruck at her devastating demise.

“How terrible, how terrible for that great city!
    She was clothed in finest purple and scarlet linens,
    decked out with gold and precious stones and pearls!
In a single moment
    all the wealth of the city is gone!” – Revelation 18:16-17 NLT

To this day, we see nations who wield great power and enjoy tremendous wealth and privilege. Their economies flourish while other nations struggle to exist. They buy and sell goods, profiting from their international commerce. They are self-sufficient, having no need of God. They worship the gods of money, power, and pleasure. But all of these nations will eventually fall. Their day in the sunshine will one day end. Their place of prominence on the world stage will not last forever. They are no match for God. He may choose to use them to accomplish His will, but He does not need them. And He will not share His glory with them. Their prideful arrogance will be broken. Their egotistical belief that they are self-made and unstoppable will end in disaster and devastation. They will all suffer the same ignoble fate as King Nebuchadnezzar and his great nation of Babylon.

“King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon has eaten and crushed us
    and drained us of strength.
He has swallowed us like a great monster
    and filled his belly with our riches.
    He has thrown us out of our own country.
Make Babylon suffer as she made us suffer,”
    say the people of Zion.
“Make the people of Babylonia pay for spilling our blood,”
    says Jerusalem. – Jeremiah 51:34-35 NLT

English Standard Version (ESV)
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

New Living Translation (NLT)
Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

The Message (MSG)

Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

Our Incomparable God.

“It is he who made the earth by his power,
    who established the world by his wisdom,
and by his understanding stretched out the heavens.
When he utters his voice there is a tumult of waters in the heavens,
    and he makes the mist rise from the ends of the earth.
He makes lightning for the rain,
    and he brings forth the wind from his storehouses.
Every man is stupid and without knowledge;
    every goldsmith is put to shame by his idols,
for his images are false,
    and there is no breath in them.
They are worthless, a work of delusion;
    at the time of their punishment they shall perish.
Not like these is he who is the portion of Jacob,
    for he is the one who formed all things,
and Israel is the tribe of his inheritance;
    the Lord of hosts is his name.” –
Jeremiah 51:15-19 ESV

In these verses, the prophet writes what amounts to be a hymn of praise to Yahweh, God Almighty, the Lord of Hosts. In the first few verses, God is referred to in the third person. His name remains unmentioned, but His deeds are outlines in great detail. He made the earth and preserves it through His wisdom. It was God who laid out the heavens and all they contain: The sun, stars, planets, galaxies, asteroids, nebula, black holes, and all that stretches out into the universe for millions of light years. And He created it with understand and gave it a precise order and structure. Nothing is out of place. Nothing is the result of chance or exists without God’s approval and creative power. And Marduk, the creator-god of the Babylonians played no part in any of it, because he is non-existent. 

Jeremiah goes on to describe Yahweh as not only the creator, but the instigator and sustainer of all things.

When he speaks in the thunder,
    the heavens roar with rain.
He causes the clouds to rise over the earth.
    He sends the lightning with the rain
    and releases the wind from his storehouses. – Jeremiah 51:16 NLT

God’s voice carries weight. When He speaks, things happen. He declares that it should rain and it does. He calls the clouds to appear and they do so. The wind is at His beck and call. All nature is subservient to His sovereign will. Bel, the Babylonians storm god was not the one responsible for the weather. He was not the source behind the storms that brought wind, rain, thunder and lightning to the earth. It was all the handiwork of God Almighty. And yet, as obvious as all of this may be, the majority of the people who live on this planet are too ignorant to recognize the unmistakable attributes of God in the world around them. And Jeremiah describes mankind in less-than-flattering terms: “The whole human race is foolish and has no knowledge!” (Jeremiah 51:17 NLT). Rather than attribute the mighty works found it nature to Yahweh, they give the credit to lifeless, man-made idols made of wood and stone.

The craftsmen are disgraced by the idols they make,
for their carefully shaped works are a fraud.
    These idols have no breath or power.
Idols are worthless; they are ridiculous lies! – Jeremiah 51:17-18 NLT

How ridiculous it is for someone to make an idol with their own hands and then step back and claim that this block of wood or carved stone is a deity with powers to rescue them from danger, protect them from harm, bless then for their worship, and sustain them throughout life. The prophet Isaiah echoes the sentiments of Jeremiah.

How foolish are those who manufacture idols.
    These prized objects are really worthless.
The people who worship idols don’t know this,
    so they are all put to shame.
Who but a fool would make his own god—
    an idol that cannot help him one bit? – Isaiah 44:9-10 NLT

And he’s not done.

The blacksmith stands at his forge to make a sharp tool,
    pounding and shaping it with all his might.
His work makes him hungry and weak.
    It makes him thirsty and faint.
Then the wood-carver measures a block of wood
    and draws a pattern on it.
He works with chisel and plane
    and carves it into a human figure.
He gives it human beauty
    and puts it in a little shrine.
He cuts down cedars;
    he selects the cypress and the oak;
he plants the pine in the forest
    to be nourished by the rain.
Then he uses part of the wood to make a fire.
    With it he warms himself and bakes his bread.
Then—yes, it’s true—he takes the rest of it
    and makes himself a god to worship! – Isaiah 44:12-15 NLT

It’s so pathetic, it’s sad. How silly it all comes across when you see it written down in black and white. How ludicrous the whole idea appears, and yet, man has made a habit of manufacturing his own gods for generations. The apostle Paul describes it in stark terms: “they worshiped and served the things God created instead of the Creator himself, who is worthy of eternal praise” (Romans 1:25 NLT).

And Isaiah goes on to paint the idiocy of idols in embarrassingly silly terms.

He makes an idol
    and bows down in front of it!
He burns part of the tree to roast his meat
    and to keep himself warm.
    He says, “Ah, that fire feels good.”
Then he takes what’s left
    and makes his god: a carved idol!
He falls down in front of it,
    worshiping and praying to it.
“Rescue me!” he says.
    “You are my god!” – Isaiah 44:15-17 NLT

And Jeremiah provides us with a vivid juxtaposition between these lifeless, helpless idols and the one true God.

But the God of Israel is no idol!
    He is the Creator of everything that exists,
including his people, his own special possession.
    The Lord of Heaven’s Armies is his name! – Jeremiah 51:19 NLT

That statement should bring us joy and create in us a sense of quiet confidence and growing trust. Our God is real. He is not the byproduct of man’s fertile imagination. He is not created. He is the creator! Everything that exists is due to Him. Even the wood that sinful, foolish men use to make false gods. Even the precious metals and stones they use to decorate their lifeless deities. He is unmade, eternal, all-powerful, and in complete control of all things. The Lord of Heaven’s Armies is his name! He is incomparable. He is without peer. And, once again, the prophet Isaiah provides us with God’s declaration of His unmatched, unequaled status as the one and only God of the universe.

“To whom will you compare me?
    Who is my equal?
Some people pour out their silver and gold
    and hire a craftsman to make a god from it.
    Then they bow down and worship it!
They carry it around on their shoulders,
    and when they set it down, it stays there.
    It can’t even move!
And when someone prays to it, there is no answer.
    It can’t rescue anyone from trouble.” – Isaiah 46:5-7 NLT

Idols can’t answer prayers. Idols can’t rescue those in trouble. Idols can’t move from one place to another without human help. Idols can’t do anything. But God can. He is incomparable, totally reliable and completely without equal.

English Standard Version (ESV)
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

New Living Translation (NLT)
Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

The Message (MSG)

Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

The Work of the Lord Our God.

Thus says the Lord: “Behold, I will stir up the spirit of a destroyer
    against Babylon,
    against the inhabitants of Leb-kamai,
and I will send to Babylon winnowers,
    and they shall winnow her,
and they shall empty her land,
    when they come against her from every side
    on the day of trouble.
Let not the archer bend his bow,
    and let him not stand up in his armor.
Spare not her young men;
    devote to destruction all her army.
They shall fall down slain in the land of the Chaldeans,
    and wounded in her streets.
For Israel and Judah have not been forsaken
    by their God, the Lord of hosts,
but the land of the Chaldeans is full of guilt
    against the Holy One of Israel.

“Flee from the midst of Babylon;
    let every one save his life!
Be not cut off in her punishment,
    for this is the time of the Lord’s vengeance,
    the repayment he is rendering her.
Babylon was a golden cup in the Lord’s hand,
    making all the earth drunken;
the nations drank of her wine;
    therefore the nations went mad.
Suddenly Babylon has fallen and been broken;
    wail for her!
Take balm for her pain;
    perhaps she may be healed.
We would have healed Babylon,
    but she was not healed.
Forsake her, and let us go
    each to his own country,
for her judgment has reached up to heaven
    and has been lifted up even to the skies.
The Lord has brought about our vindication;
    come, let us declare in Zion
    the work of the Lord our God.

“Sharpen the arrows!
    Take up the shields!

The Lord has stirred up the spirit of the kings of the Medes, because his purpose concerning Babylon is to destroy it, for that is the vengeance of the Lord, the vengeance for his temple.

“Set up a standard against the walls of Babylon;
    make the watch strong;
set up watchmen;
    prepare the ambushes;
for the Lord has both planned and done
    what he spoke concerning the inhabitants of Babylon.
O you who dwell by many waters,
    rich in treasures,
your end has come;
    the thread of your life is cut.
The Lord of hosts has sworn by himself:
Surely I will fill you with men, as many as locusts,
    and they shall raise the shout of victory over you.” –
Jeremiah 51:1-14 ESV

God’s indictment of Babylon continues. He has already far exceeded the length of His other oracles concerning Egypt, Ammon, Moab and Edom. He obviously has much to say concerning the fate of the nation of Babylon. And His words concerning Babylon extend well beyond King Nebuchadnezzar and the nation as it was known in Jeremiah’s day. Babylon would become a byword and a standing symbol for all things anti-God. In fact, in the book of Revelation, John is given a vision by an angelic being concerning Babylon.

“Come with me,” he said, “and I will show you the judgment that is going to come on the great prostitute, who rules over many waters. The kings of the world have committed adultery with her, and the people who belong to this world have been made drunk by the wine of her immorality.”

So the angel took me in the Spirit into the wilderness. There I saw a woman sitting on a scarlet beast that had seven heads and ten horns, and blasphemies against God were written all over it. The woman wore purple and scarlet clothing and beautiful jewelry made of gold and precious gems and pearls. In her hand she held a gold goblet full of obscenities and the impurities of her immorality. A mysterious name was written on her forehead: “Babylon the Great, Mother of All Prostitutes and Obscenities in the World.” I could see that she was drunk—drunk with the blood of God’s holy people who were witnesses for Jesus. I stared at her in complete amazement. – Revelation 17:1-6 NLT

Throughout the Scriptures, Babylon becomes the personification of spiritual adultery and immorality. She represents the world without God, full of pride, characterized by power and wealth, addicted to sexual immorality and drunk with the blood of God’s holy people. In a sense, Babylon is a picture of mankind apart from God, left to its own devices. Rather than seek God, man will always attempt to make himself god, creating false deities that are nothing more than a slightly more powerful version of himself. The apostle Paul provides us with a very dark description of mankind in rebellion against God.

Since they thought it foolish to acknowledge God, he abandoned them to their foolish thinking and let them do things that should never be done. Their lives became full of every kind of wickedness, sin, greed, hate, envy, murder, quarreling, deception, malicious behavior, and gossip. They are backstabbers, haters of God, insolent, proud, and boastful. They invent new ways of sinning, and they disobey their parents. They refuse to understand, break their promises, are heartless, and have no mercy. They know God’s justice requires that those who do these things deserve to die, yet they do them anyway. Worse yet, they encourage others to do them, too. – Romans 1:28-32 NLT

Babylon would become an enduring symbol of mankind’s stubborn resistance to God’s will and their ongoing rebellion against God’s rightful place as not only their creator, but their God. In this passage, God refers to Babylon as Leb-kamai, a code name for Chaldea, which literally means “heart of my adversaries.” They were His enemies. They stood in pride-filled opposition to Him. But their day of destruction was coming. Literal Babylon, the nation that had destroyed Judah, would fall at the hands of the Persians. But symbolic Babylon would also fall. But in the midst of all of this, God reminds His people that He is still watching over them and that the coming judgment on Babylon will be a sign of His love for them and His vengeance against all those who have opposed them and sought to eliminate them.

“For the Lord of Heaven’s Armies
    has not abandoned Israel and Judah.
He is still their God,
    even though their land was filled with sin
    against the Holy One of Israel.” – Jeremiah 51:5 NLT

God will save His people, not because they deserve it, but because He had made a covenant with them. He will honor His commitment to preserve and protect them. He will keep His Word to restore them to a right relationship with Him. All because He is faithful, gracious, merciful and loving. And the day is coming when the people of Israel and Judah will be able to say:

“The Lord has vindicated us.
    Come, let us announce in Jerusalem
    everything the Lord our God has done.” – Jeremiah 51:10 NLT

It would have been so easy for the people of Judah to have seen their situation as helpless and hopeless. They had been conquered by the Babylonians and taken captive. Their nation was in a shambles, their capital city had been destroyed, and the temple of their God lay in ruins. They had no king. They no longer had an army. The glory days of David and Solomon were long gone. But God was far from finished with them. And God was not yet done with Babylon. He would raise up yet another conquering nation, Persia, which would defeat the once-great Babylonians. And then they too, would eventually fall. The Romans would rise to power and would rule the land during the days when God’s Son came to earth. But their days of power and prominence would also come to an end. Nations rise and fall. Kings come to power and then find themselves replaced by yet another individual with grandiose aspirations to rule and reign. But none of these kings, dictators, presidents, despots, or aspiring gods, will ever stand before God Almighty. Even the great Babylon, symbol of man’s immorality and desire for deity, will one day be destroyed.

After this, I heard what sounded like a vast crowd in heaven shouting,

“Praise the Lord!
    Salvation and glory and power belong to our God.
His judgments are true and just.
    He has punished the great prostitute
who corrupted the earth with her immorality.
    He has avenged the murder of his servants.” – Revelation 19:1-2 NLT

There is much about prophecy that we cannot understand. These matters are far beyond our reasoning capabilities and outside our human capacity to discern. But, in faith, we need to trust that “the Lord will fulfill all his plans against Babylon” (Jeremiah 51:12 NLT). We can rest in the confidence provided by God’s faithful pronouncement, “The Lord of Heaven’s Armies has taken this vow and has sworn to it by his own name” (Jeremiah 51:14 NLT). The work of the Lord our God will be done. His plan will be fulfilled. His promises regarding this world and His people who live in it, will come about just as He has said it will. No matter what we see happening around us, we can know that God is greater than Babylon the great. He is more powerful than the mightiest nation. He is sovereign over all. And all those who stand opposed to Him and attempt to replace the one true God with themselves or an idol of their own choosing, will one day discover that they were living the delusion of Babylon. And all of those who have placed their faith in the one true God will be able to say, along with the redeemed of Israel and Judah, “The Lord has vindicated us.”

English Standard Version (ESV)
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

New Living Translation (NLT)
Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

The Message (MSG)

Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

Their Redeemer Is Strong.

“Summon archers against Babylon, all those who bend the bow. Encamp around her; let no one escape. Repay her according to her deeds; do to her according to all that she has done. For she has proudly defied the Lord, the Holy One of Israel. Therefore her young men shall fall in her squares, and all her soldiers shall be destroyed on that day, declares the Lord.

“Behold, I am against you, O proud one,
    declares the Lord God of hosts,
for your day has come,
    the time when I will punish you.
The proud one shall stumble and fall,
    with none to raise him up,
and I will kindle a fire in his cities,
    and it will devour all that is around him.

“Thus says the Lord of hosts: The people of Israel are oppressed, and the people of Judah with them. All who took them captive have held them fast; they refuse to let them go. Their Redeemer is strong; the Lord of hosts is his name. He will surely plead their cause, that he may give rest to the earth, but unrest to the inhabitants of Babylon.

“A sword against the Chaldeans, declares the Lord,
    and against the inhabitants of Babylon,
    and against her officials and her wise men!
A sword against the diviners,
    that they may become fools!
A sword against her warriors,
    that they may be destroyed!
A sword against her horses and against her chariots,
    and against all the foreign troops in her midst,
    that they may become women!
A sword against all her treasures,
    that they may be plundered!
A drought against her waters,
    that they may be dried up!
For it is a land of images,
    and they are mad over idols.

“Therefore wild beasts shall dwell with hyenas in Babylon, and ostriches shall dwell in her. She shall never again have people, nor be inhabited for all generations. As when God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah and their neighboring cities, declares the Lord, so no man shall dwell there, and no son of man shall sojourn in her.

“Behold, a people comes from the north;
    a mighty nation and many kings
    are stirring from the farthest parts of the earth.
They lay hold of bow and spear;
    they are cruel and have no mercy.
The sound of them is like the roaring of the sea;
    they ride on horses,
arrayed as a man for battle
    against you, O daughter of Babylon!

“The king of Babylon heard the report of them,
    and his hands fell helpless;
anguish seized him,
    pain as of a woman in labor.

“Behold, like a lion coming up from the thicket of the Jordan against a perennial pasture, I will suddenly make them run away from her, and I will appoint over her whomever I choose. For who is like me? Who will summon me? What shepherd can stand before me? Therefore hear the plan that the Lord has made against Babylon, and the purposes that he has formed against the land of the Chaldeans: Surely the little ones of their flock shall be dragged away; surely their fold shall be appalled at their fate. At the sound of the capture of Babylon the earth shall tremble, and her cry shall be heard among the nations.” Jeremiah 50:29-46 ESV

Babylon the great would prove no match for God the Almighty. That is the bottom-line essence of this very long and quite detailed oracle. Babylon, “the proud one”, would fall before God, the Redeemer of Israel and Judah. Multiple times in this section of the oracle, God points out the pride of Babylon.

“Repay her according to her deeds; do to her according to all that she has done. For she has proudly defied the Lord, the Holy One of Israel.” – Jeremiah 50:29 ESV

Again, it may seem disconcerting to us that God would hold Babylon accountable for something He had summoned her to do. They had acted as a instrument of judgment in His hands, meting out justice against the rebellious people of Judah. But God has made it clear that their role was completely complicit and willing. He had not forced them to attack the nations of Canaan and Palestine. He had given Nebuchadnezzar his desire for global domination. God had simply used the greed and aggrandizement of the Babylonians for His divine purposes. And they would be hold accountable for their role. The fact was, they had not given their attack against the people of God a second thought. They had arrogantly planned and carried out their destruction of Jerusalem without a hint of fear or remorse. And now, God let’s them know that they will be repaid in full for what they had done. Their pride would result in their fall.

“Behold, I am against you, O proud one,
    declares the Lord God of hosts,
for your day has come,
    the time when I will punish you.
The proud one shall stumble and fall,
    with none to raise him up…” – Jeremiah 50:31-32 ESV

When God was done with them, there would be no return to power for the Babylonians. Their defeat would not be temporary or partial. This would not be a case of a battle lost or an inconvenient setback in their plans. It would be the end of all Babylon stood for and it would be devastatingly complete.

Right in the middle of this section of the oracle, God places a well-chosen word about Israel and Judah, His covenant people.

“Thus says the Lord of hosts: The people of Israel are oppressed, and the people of Judah with them. All who took them captive have held them fast; they refuse to let them go. Their Redeemer is strong; the Lord of hosts is his name. He will surely plead their cause, that he may give rest to the earth, but unrest to the inhabitants of Babylon.” – Jeremiah 50:33-34 ESV

Through His prophet, Jeremiah, God reminds the people of Judah that they are His and He is their Redeemer. No matter how bad things may get and how difficult their lot in life may appear, He will be with them. He has been and continues to be their Redeemer. The Hebrew word that is translated, “redeemer” is ga'al and it refers to a kinsman-redeemer, a close relative whose job it is to step in and rescue their afflicted or oppressed family member. Boaz was Ruth’s kinsman-redeemer, marrying her and rescuing her from her poverty. Abraham played the part of Lot’s kinsman-redeemer, rescuing him from captivity. The kinsman-redeemer was expected to avenge, revenge, ransom or rescue the one in trouble. And that is exactly what God was promising to do for Israel and Judah, His two wayward children. Both of these nations, made up of the 12 tribes of Israel, had wandered away from God. They had played the part of the prodigal son, leaving their Father and wasting all He had given them in lives of self-indulgent pleasure and promiscuity. But now, He would turn from being their prosecutor to being their rescuer.

God is bringing a sword against the leaders of Babylon, the inhabitants of the nation, the diviners, warriors, horses and chariots, mercenaries, treasures, idols and images. No one will be spared. From their many false gods to the people that worship them, all would fall under God’s judgment. And God makes it quite clear that there is nothing the nation of Babylon will be able to do to escape their fate.

“I will appoint over her whomever I choose. For who is like me? Who will summon me? What shepherd can stand before me?” – Jeremiah 50:44 ESV

He describes Himself as a lion, suddenly pouncing on His prey. They will be like helpless sheep, incapable of defending themselves and left totally unprotected by their shepherds. It’s interesting to note that the prophet, Hosea, wrote of God using this same description, but in speaking of His judgment against Israel and Judah.

“For I will be like a lion to Ephraim,
    and like a young lion to the house of Judah.
I, even I, will tear and go away;
    I will carry off, and no one shall rescue.

“I will return again to my place,
    until they acknowledge their guilt and seek my face,
    and in their distress earnestly seek me.” – Hosea 5:14-15 ESV

Now, God was going to turn the tables and come against the enemies of Israel and Judah. And the book of Revelation describes yet another description of the lion, this time of Jesus, as the conquering, victorious Messiah. The apostle John writes:

But one of the twenty-four elders said to me, “Stop weeping! Look, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the heir to David’s throne, has won the victory. He is worthy to open the scroll and its seven seals.”

Then I saw a Lamb that looked as if it had been slaughtered, but it was now standing between the throne and the four living beings and among the twenty-four elders.Revelation 5:5-6 ESV

God’s plan is comprehensive and complete. He is the Redeemer of His people. His Son, the Messiah, while finished with His redemptive work on the cross, has one last job to complete. He will one day return and redeem His people. He will restore order to the chaos that currently rules the world. He will fulfill every promise made by God the Father to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. He will fulfill the promise made to David that he would have an heir to sit on his throne is Jerusalem forever. The Redeemer of Israel and Judah is strong. His Word is true. His plan is perfect. And His Son is the Lion of the tribe of Judah.

English Standard Version (ESV)
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

New Living Translation (NLT)
Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

The Message (MSG)

Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

The Patience of God

“Go up against the land of Merathaim,
    and against the inhabitants of Pekod.
Kill, and devote them to destruction,
declares the Lord,
    and do all that I have commanded you.
The noise of battle is in the land,
    and great destruction!
How the hammer of the whole earth
    is cut down and broken!
How Babylon has become
    a horror among the nations!
I set a snare for you and you were taken, O Babylon,
    and you did not know it;
you were found and caught,
    because you opposed the Lord.
The Lord has opened his armory
    and brought out the weapons of his wrath,
for the Lord God of hosts has a work to do
    in the land of the Chaldeans.
Come against her from every quarter;
    open her granaries;
pile her up like heaps of grain, and devote her to destruction;
    let nothing be left of her.
Kill all her bulls;
    let them go down to the slaughter.
Woe to them, for their day has come,
    the time of their punishment.

“A voice! They flee and escape from the land of Babylon, to declare in Zion the vengeance of the Lord our God, vengeance for his temple.” Jeremiah 50:21-28 ESV

Babylon would play a major role in the affairs of the people of God, so, as a result, they have the honor of receiving a much longer oracle of judgment against them from God. In fact, in these verses, God refers to the nation of Babylon as Merathaim, which, in the Hebrew, means “double rebellion.” This may refer to the fact that they were idolatrous and, therefore, worshipers of false gods, rather than the one true God. But it most likelyincludes the role they played in the destruction of Judah. The lands of Merathaim and Pekod were actual places within the dominion of Babylon, but God seems to use these places for the convenient wordplay their Hebrew names provide. Pekod, in the Hebrew, refers to “punishment,” It is as if God is saying that these two lands within the mighty empire of Babylon, are aptly named because they represent the cause and the outcome of the nation’s fall: Rebellion against God and punishment at the hands of God.

The nation that had once been “the mightiest hammer in all the earth lies broken and shattered” (Jeremiah 50:23 NLT). But this prophecy, while partially fulfilled when the Persians defeated the Babylonians, has a much more important fulfillment that will take place in the end times. The Babylonians were not completely annihilated by the Persians, but were simply defeated and then absorbed into the Persian Empire. Babylon remained a significant city within that empire for many years to come.

God provides two pieces of evidence or points of accusation against Babylon for their coming destruction. The first is “You are caught, for you have fought against the Lord” (Jeremiah 50:24 NLT). While they had been commissioned by God to destroy Judah, that did not absolve them from the role they played. They did so willingly and eagerly. God did not have to force them to do what they did. He simply orchestrated the timing and ordained the manner in which their evil desires manifested themselves. But, in attacking Judah, they were actually fighting against God. They were attacking the people of God. the second accusation God levels against the Babylonians has to do with the temple. Jeremiah writes, “the Lord our God has taken vengeance against those who destroyed his Temple” (Jeremiah 50:28 NLT). In their sack of Jerusalem, the Babylonians plundered and completely destroyed the once-great temple that Solomon had built.

He burned down the Lord’s temple, the royal palace, and all the houses in Jerusalem, including every large house. The whole Babylonian army that came with the captain of the royal guard tore down the walls that surrounded Jerusalem. – 2 Kings 25:9-10 NLT

The Babylonians broke the two bronze pillars in the Lord’s temple, as well as the movable stands and the big bronze basin called “The Sea.” They took the bronze to Babylon. They also took the pots, shovels, trimming shears, pans, and all the bronze utensils used by the priests. The captain of the royal guard took the golden and silver censers and basins. The bronze of the items that King Solomon made for the Lord’s temple—including the two pillars, the big bronze basin called “The Sea,” the twelve bronze bulls under “The Sea,” and the movable stands—was too heavy to be weighed. Each of the pillars was about twenty-seven feet high. The bronze top of one pillar was about four and a half feet high and had bronze latticework and pomegranate shaped ornaments all around it. The second pillar with its latticework was like it. – 2 Kings 25:13-17 NLT

They would pay for what they had done. And it would not end with their fall to the Persians. God has a much greater and complete destruction in store for Babylon. The prophet, Isaiah, write of that coming day.

Babylon, the most admired of kingdoms,
the Chaldeans’ source of honor and pride,
will be destroyed by God
just as Sodom and Gomorrah were.
No one will live there again;
no one will ever reside there again.
No bedouin will camp there,
no shepherds will rest their flocks there.
Wild animals will rest there,
the ruined houses will be full of hyenas.
Ostriches will live there,
wild goats will skip among the ruins.
Wild dogs will yip in her ruined fortresses,
jackals will yelp in the once-splendid palaces.
Her time is almost up,
her days will not be prolonged. – Isaiah 13:19-22 NLT

That day, as described by Isaiah, will be one of worldwide judgment at the hands of God.

Look, the Lord’s day of judgment is coming;
it is a day of cruelty and savage, raging anger,
destroying the earth
and annihilating its sinners… – Isaiah 13:9 NLT

God will bring judgment on the entire earth, once and for all. He will put an end to the sin and rebellion that He has so patiently endured for so many centuries.

“I will punish the world for its evil,
and wicked people for their sin.
I will put an end to the pride of the insolent,
I will bring down the arrogance of tyrants.
I will make human beings more scarce than pure gold,
and people more scarce than gold from Ophir.
So I will shake the heavens,
and the earth will shake loose from its foundation,
because of the fury of the Lord who commands armies,
in the day he vents his raging anger.” – Isaiah 13:11-13 NLT

Obviously, none of this has yet happened. But Isaiah makes it clear that the coming judgment of God is unavoidable.

It is the Lord with his instruments of judgment,
coming to destroy the whole earth.
Wail, for the Lord’s day of judgment is near;
it comes with all the destructive power of the sovereign Judge. – Isaiah 13:5-6 NLT

He is the sovereign judge. He is God Almighty, and while He has allowed mankind to continue to live in open rebellion against Him, He will not endure their disobedience forever. The apostle Paul reminds us that God has been willing to put up with the sins of mankind for generations, because He had a plan by which He would provide them a means by which they might be made right with Him. He sent His Son as the payment for the sins of mankind. And all those who place their faith in Him as their Savior and sin substitute, receive forgiveness of sins and justification with God. They are restored to a right relationship with God. They are freed from future condemnation and assured of a place in God’s future Kingdom.  God could have wipe out all of mankind at any time, because all have sinned against Him. All are guilty of rebellion and disobedience to Him. And yet, Paul reminds us…

…even though God has the right to show his anger and his power, he is very patient with those on whom his anger falls, who are destined for destruction. He does this to make the riches of his glory shine even brighter on those to whom he shows mercy, who were prepared in advance for glory. And we are among those whom he selected, both from the Jews and from the Gentiles. – Romans 9:22-24 NLT

God showed mercy. He sent His Son. He did for sinful mankind what they could not do for themselves. He provided a means of salvation. He paid their sin debt for them. He provided a source of righteousness they could never have produced on their own. And some would avail themselves of this incredible gift from God, while others rejected it. And there are still many yet to come to a saving faith in Jesus Christ. And there are many who will yet reject that gift of God’s grace. So, God’s patient endurance continues. He holds off His final judgment. But He will not do so forever.

English Standard Version (ESV)
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

New Living Translation (NLT)
Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

The Message (MSG)

Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

His Desire Shall Be Fulfilled.


“Though you rejoice, though you exult,
    O plunderers of my heritage,
though you frolic like a heifer in the pasture,
    and neigh like stallions,
    your mother shall be utterly shamed,
    and she who bore you shall be disgraced.
Behold, she shall be the last of the nations,
    a wilderness, a dry land, and a desert.
Because of the wrath of the Lord she shall not be inhabited
    but shall be an utter desolation;
everyone who passes by Babylon shall be appalled,
    and hiss because of all her wounds.
Set yourselves in array against Babylon all around,
    all you who bend the bow;
shoot at her, spare no arrows,
    for she has sinned against the Lord.
Raise a shout against her all around;
    she has surrendered;
her bulwarks have fallen;
    her walls are thrown down.
For this is the vengeance of the Lord:
    take vengeance on her;
    do to her as she has done.
Cut off from Babylon the sower,
    and the one who handles the sickle in time of harvest;
because of the sword of the oppressor,
    every one shall turn to his own people,
    and every one shall flee to his own land.

“Israel is a hunted sheep driven away by lions. First the king of Assyria devoured him, and now at last Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon has gnawed his bones. Therefore, thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: Behold, I am bringing punishment on the king of Babylon and his land, as I punished the king of Assyria. I will restore Israel to his pasture, and he shall feed on Carmel and in Bashan, and his desire shall be satisfied on the hills of Ephraim and in Gilead. In those days and in that time, declares the Lord, iniquity shall be sought in Israel, and there shall be none, and sin in Judah, and none shall be found, for I will pardon those whom I leave as a remnant.” Jeremiah 50:11-20 ESV

What an incredible juxtaposition is found in these verses: The mighty nation of Babylon and its reputation for world domination and the lowly nation of Judah, defeated, demoralized and destined to live out its pitiful existence in captivity. But these verses also remind us of something very important: the unmistakable role of God in human affairs. He is the one who is ultimately in charge of all things. This planet was His creation, and human beings were the apex of that creation. He had and still has a plan for the world and all it contains, including mankind. He is not some distant deity who wound up the clock of creation and is now standing back in disinterest as the final hours of human existence wind down to some kind of cataclysmic end. No, with these oracles, God is making it quite clear that everything is in His hands, including the fate of mankind. There is not detail that escapes His notice. There is no outcome He has not already foreordained or foreknown. There are no surprises to God. Nothing catches Him off guard or unawares. He is not shocked. He never has to ask, “How did that happen?”

And as God proclaims His future plans for the nations, He does so, looking far into the distance, far beyond the rule and reign of King Nebuchadnezzar and the current generation of God’s people living in captivity. His frame of reference encompasses all time, allowing Him to see and reveal what He has planned all the way up to the end, at the very brink of eternity. The statements found in these verses have the now/not yet aspect common to much of biblical prophecy. They will be partially fulfilled in the not-too-distant future. Babylon will fall to the Persians. The people of Judah will return to the land. But God is also speaking about events that have not yet happened. But they will. And they reveal that God, while actively involved in the here-and-now, has His attention focused on what is to come. He knows how the story ends. Everything is building to the divine crescendo He has planned for His creation. The days of our lives are acts within a much larger play. They are not the play itself. The fall of Judah was significant and necessary, but it was not the end of the story. It was simply yet another scene in the divine drama of God’s redemption of mankind and His creation. The Babylonians had played their part, and interestingly enough, they will return to the stage later in the drama. But in the days of Jeremiah, the nation of Babylon had rejoiced and celebrated over their defeat of Judah.

“You rejoice and are glad,
    you who plundered my chosen people.
You frisk about like a calf in a meadow
    and neigh like a stallion.” – Jeremiah 50:11 NLT

They had thoroughly enjoyed their run of good luck and world dominance. But God had plans for them.

“But your homeland will be overwhelmed
    with shame and disgrace.
You will become the least of nations—
    a wilderness, a dry and desolate land.” – Jeremiah 50:12 NLT

Why was God going to bring this disaster on the land of Babylon? He tells us just a few verses later.

“For she has sinned against the Lord.” – Jeremiah 50:14 NLT

Like every other nation on earth, they were enemies of God, living in open rebellion to Him, resisting His will and failing to recognize Him as God. The apostle Paul describes their problem in very blunt terms.

But God shows his anger from heaven against all sinful, wicked people who suppress the truth by their wickedness. They know the truth about God because he has made it obvious to them. For ever since the world was created, people have seen the earth and sky. Through everything God made, they can clearly see his invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature. So they have no excuse for not knowing God.

Yes, they knew God, but they wouldn’t worship him as God or even give him thanks. And they began to think up foolish ideas of what God was like. As a result, their minds became dark and confused. Claiming to be wise, they instead became utter fools. And instead of worshiping the glorious, ever-living God, they worshiped idols made to look like mere people and birds and animals and reptiles. – Romans 1:18-23 NLT

The Babylonians were worthy of God’s wrath long before they attacked the people of Judah. They, like every other people group on the planet, were in a long-standing feud with God over who was in charge and who would rule and reign over the earth. And the name, “Babylon” will remain a symbol of man’s rebellion against God throughout the ages. Mighty Babylon will show up again in the end times, as a representation of man’s ongoing and last-ditch attempt to overthrow God. The land of Babylon has a long-standing and less-than-ideal relationship with God. It was there that man first attempted to resist the will of God in a corporate or communal fashion.

At one time all the people of the world spoke the same language and used the same words. As the people migrated to the east, they found a plain in the land of Babylonia and settled there.

They began saying to each other, “Let’s make bricks and harden them with fire.” (In this region bricks were used instead of stone, and tar was used for mortar.) Then they said, “Come, let’s build a great city for ourselves with a tower that reaches into the sky. This will make us famous and keep us from being scattered all over the world.” – Genesis 11:1-4 NLT

When Noah and his sons had stepped out of the ark, after God had brought the great flood upon the earth, God had told them, “Be fruitful and multiply. Fill the earth” (Genesis 9:1 NLT). But then we see the descendants of Noah deciding to disobey God’s command and settle down in the land of Babylon. Not only that, they determine to build a great city and a tower that will reach to the sky. Their desire is for fame. They want to be in control. They don’t want to do things God’s way. And so, God stepped in.

But the Lord came down to look at the city and the tower the people were building. “Look!” he said. “The people are united, and they all speak the same language. After this, nothing they set out to do will be impossible for them! Come, let’s go down and confuse the people with different languages. Then they won’t be able to understand each other.”

In that way, the Lord scattered them all over the world, and they stopped building the city. That is why the city was called Babel, because that is where the Lord confused the people with different languages. In this way he scattered them all over the world. – Genesis 11:5-9 NLT

Obviously, later generations of mankind made their way back to Babylon. And it would become a lasting symbol of man’s rebellion and pride. And the day is coming when the once-mighty Babylon will be rebuilt. Once again, man will attempt to do what God has forbidden, and God will be forced to destroy that city yet again. That is what this oracle really deals with.

But as for Judah, their fate will be radically different. They will be restored by God. And it doesn’t take a theologian to understand that this prophecy concerning Judah has yet to be fulfilled. Just look closely at what God says:

“And I will bring Israel home again to its own land,
    to feed in the fields of Carmel and Bashan,
and to be satisfied once more
    in the hill country of Ephraim and Gilead.
In those days,” says the Lord,
    “no sin will be found in Israel or in Judah,
    for I will forgive the remnant I preserve.” – Jeremiah 50:19-20 NLT

No sin will be found in Israel or in Judah. This is obviously speaking of a future time. It has not yet happened. But it will happen. It is all part of God’s perfect plan for His creation and for mankind. God is not done yet. His will shall be accomplished and the desire of the people of Israel shall be satisfied. They will be restored to the land and to a right relationship with God Almighty, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. God will remove their hearts of stone and give them hearts of flesh. They will sin no more. They will no longer have a desire to rebel against God. They will find His laws appealing and not oppressive. They will worship Him gladly. And it is all due to the sovereign will of God. He has a plan. He has a outcome in mind. And it will happen just as He has planned.

English Standard Version (ESV)
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

New Living Translation (NLT)
Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

The Message (MSG)

Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

God Is Not Done Yet.

The word that the Lord spoke concerning Babylon, concerning the land of the Chaldeans, by Jeremiah the prophet:

“Declare among the nations and proclaim,
    set up a banner and proclaim,
    conceal it not, and say:
‘Babylon is taken,
    Bel is put to shame,
    Merodach is dismayed.
Her images are put to shame,
    her idols are dismayed.’

“For out of the north a nation has come up against her, which shall make her land a desolation, and none shall dwell in it; both man and beast shall flee away.

“In those days and in that time, declares the Lord, the people of Israel and the people of Judah shall come together, weeping as they come, and they shall seek the Lord their God. They shall ask the way to Zion, with faces turned toward it, saying, ‘Come, let us join ourselves to the Lord in an everlasting covenant that will never be forgotten.’

“My people have been lost sheep. Their shepherds have led them astray, turning them away on the mountains. From mountain to hill they have gone. They have forgotten their fold. All who found them have devoured them, and their enemies have said, ‘We are not guilty, for they have sinned against the Lord, their habitation of righteousness, the Lord, the hope of their fathers.’

“Flee from the midst of Babylon, and go out of the land of the Chaldeans, and be as male goats before the flock. For behold, I am stirring up and bringing against Babylon a gathering of great nations, from the north country. And they shall array themselves against her. From there she shall be taken. Their arrows are like a skilled warrior who does not return empty-handed. Chaldea shall be plundered; all who plunder her shall be sated, declares the Lord.” Jeremiah 50:1-10 ESV

For the next two chapters of the book of Jeremiah, God is going to speak an oracle of judgment against Babylon that far exceeds, in terms of length, what He has said about all the other nations combined. This displays the significance that the Babylonians played in the world affairs of that day and the degree to which God would hold them accountable for their part in Judah’s destruction. While they had been a tool in His hands, accomplishing His divine will regarding the people of Judah, the Babylonians did what they did willingly and gladly. He had not forced them to attack Judah. He simply used their natural propensity to conquer and enslave to accomplish His will to bring judgment upon the people of God. And, as a result, God would hold them responsible and repay them for their devastatingly successful defeat of the nation of Judah.

In these first ten verses of the chapter, God provides a graphic portrayal of Babylon’s fall and Judah’s restoration. The once great Babylonians would suffer defeat at the hands of the Persians, while the once lowly people of Judah would be miraculously restored to their land. The captors would be come become captives. And the captives would be set free. The fall of Babylon would come about due to the rise to prominence of the Persian nation. While the Babylonians had long held the position as the playground bully, they were about to be displaced by a relatively new nation whose rapid rise to power would catch everyone by surprise. It is interesting to note that, for the majority of the book of Jeremiah, the Babylonians had been referred to as the nation from the north. Now, there would be yet another northern invader who would do to them what they had done to others. Babylon the great would get a taste of their own medicine. God would turn the tables on them.

“Tell the whole world,
    and keep nothing back.
Raise a signal flag
    to tell everyone that Babylon will fall!
Her images and idols will be shattered.
    Her gods Bel and Marduk will be utterly disgraced.” – Jeremiah 50:2 NLT

Bel and Marduk were two of the many Babylonians deities. God uses a very derogatory word to refer to these false gods. It is the Hebrew word גִּלּוּלִים, gillulim and it literally means, “dung pellets” and was also used to refer to human excrement. These gods would be defeated and taken as plunder. The Babylonian gods would suffer the same fate as that of the gods of the nations whom Babylon had conquered. Their power, or lack of it, would be exposed. The nation of Babylon would fall.

But the people of Judah would be returned to the land. In God’s grand plan, the Babylonians would be displaced by the Persians, and it would be a Persian king who would issue a decree officially sanctioning the return of the people of Judah to their homeland. This amazing event is recorded in the book of Ezra.

In the first year of King Cyrus of Persia, in order to fulfill the Lord’s message spoken through Jeremiah, the Lord stirred the mind of King Cyrus of Persia. He disseminated a proclamation throughout his entire kingdom, announcing in a written edict the following:

“Thus says King Cyrus of Persia:

“‘The Lord God of heaven has given me all the kingdoms of the earth. He has instructed me to build a temple for him in Jerusalem, which is in Judah. Anyone from his people among you (may his God be with him!) may go up to Jerusalem, which is in Judah, and may build the temple of the Lord God of Israel—he is the God who is in Jerusalem. Anyone who survives in any of those places where he is a resident foreigner must be helped by his neighbors with silver, gold, equipment, and animals, along with voluntary offerings for the temple of God which is in Jerusalem.’” – Ezra 1:1-4 NLT

This was all part of God’s plan. He had ordained it and now He was bringing it about. These world events and the major redistribution of global power were all part of His strategy. What may have appeared chaotic and confusing from an earthly perspective, was actually the result of God’s carefully laid out plan.

But there is an aspect of this oracle that is yet unfulfilled. There are predictions outlines in these verses that have yet to take place. While the Persians did eventually defeat Babylon, the destruction was not complete. The city of Babylon was not destroyed, but absorbed into the Persian Empire. And the picture of Israel returning to the land with weeping and worshiping God as they entered is another incomplete fulfillment. It actually speaks of as-yet-to-be-fulfilled event that is outlined in the book of Zechariah.

“I will pour out on the kingship of David and the population of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and supplication so that they will look to me, the one they have pierced. They will lament for him as one laments for an only son, and there will be a bitter cry for him like the bitter cry for a firstborn. On that day the lamentation in Jerusalem will be as great as the lamentation at Hadad-Rimmon in the plain of Megiddo. The land will mourn, clan by clan—the clan of the royal household of David by itself and their wives by themselves; the clan of the family of Nathan by itself and their wives by themselves; the clan of the descendants of Levi by itself and their wives by themselves; and the clan of the Shimeites by itself and their wives by themselves— all the clans that remain, each separately with their wives.” – Zechariah 123:10-14 NLT

This will be a time of Israel’s restoration not only to the land, but to their rightful Messiah, Jesus Christ. That has not happened yet. So, there is a second and even greater destruction coming to Babylon. And there is an even more significant and important return of Israel to the land than that which took place under the leadership of Ezra, after the 70 years of captivity was over.

“They will ask the way to Jerusalem
    and will start back home again.
They will bind themselves to the Lord
    with an eternal covenant that will never be forgotten.” – Jeremiah 50:5 NLT

Jews will return to Israel from all over the world. And they will be given a new covenant by God. The prophet Ezekiel wrote of this special day.

“‘I will take you from the nations and gather you from all the countries; then I will bring you to your land. I will sprinkle you with pure water and you will be clean from all your impurities. I will purify you from all your idols. I will give you a new heart, and I will put a new spirit within you. I will remove the heart of stone from your body and give you a heart of flesh. I will put my Spirit within you; I will take the initiative and you will obey my statutes and carefully observe my regulations.” – Ezekiel 36:24-27 NLT

God goes on to promise even more blessings upon Israel in those days.

“This is what the sovereign Lord says: In the day I cleanse you from all your sins, I will populate the cities and the ruins will be rebuilt. The desolate land will be plowed, instead of being desolate in the sight of everyone who passes by. They will say, ‘This desolate land has become like the garden of Eden; the ruined, desolate, and destroyed cities are now fortified and inhabited.’ Then the nations which remain around you will know that I, the Lord, have rebuilt the ruins and replanted what was desolate. I, the Lord, have spoken—and I will do it!” – Ezekiel 36:33-36 NLT

Verses 8-10 make it clear that Babylon will fall. And while they would eventually fall to the Persians, there ultimate destruction lies in the future. The book of Revelation carries a vivid description of this future event. It can be found in chapter 18.

“Babylon is fallen—that great city is fallen!
    She has become a home for demons.
She is a hideout for every foul spirit,
    a hideout for every foul vulture
    and every foul and dreadful animal.
For all the nations have fallen
    because of the wine of her passionate immorality.
The kings of the world
    have committed adultery with her.
Because of her desires for extravagant luxury,
    the merchants of the world have grown rich.” – Revelation 18:2-3 NLT

God’s plans for this world are extensive and encompass all of time. They are not restricted to events that have happened, but include yet future events that are described in such vivid terms in the Word of God, it is as if they have already occurred. God is in control. He is unhindered by time and space. His will covers the past and includes the future. Nothing escapes His divine will. The Bible, while full of historical events, is also a book that reveals God’s future activities. And because He is all-powerful and complete sovereign, even His future will is as good as done. It will happen just as He has said.

English Standard Version (ESV)
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

New Living Translation (NLT)
Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

The Message (MSG)

Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

God’s Will. God’s Way.

Concerning Damascus:

“Hamath and Arpad are confounded,
    for they have heard bad news;
they melt in fear,
    they are troubled like the sea that cannot be quiet.
Damascus has become feeble, she turned to flee,
    and panic seized her;
anguish and sorrows have taken hold of her,
    as of a woman in labor.
How is the famous city not forsaken,
    the city of my joy?
Therefore her young men shall fall in her squares,
    and all her soldiers shall be destroyed in that day,
declares the Lord of hosts.
And I will kindle a fire in the wall of Damascus,
    and it shall devour the strongholds of Ben-hadad.”

Concerning Kedar and the kingdoms of Hazor that Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon struck down.

Thus says the Lord:
“Rise up, advance against Kedar!
    Destroy the people of the east!
Their tents and their flocks shall be taken,
    their curtains and all their goods;
their camels shall be led away from them,
    and men shall cry to them: ‘Terror on every side!’
Flee, wander far away, dwell in the depths,
    O inhabitants of Hazor!
declares the Lord.
For Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon
    has made a plan against you
    and formed a purpose against you.

“Rise up, advance against a nation at ease,
    that dwells securely,
declares the Lord,
that has no gates or bars,
    that dwells alone.
Their camels shall become plunder,
    their herds of livestock a spoil.
I will scatter to every wind
    those who cut the corners of their hair,
and I will bring their calamity
    from every side of them,
declares the Lord.
Hazor shall become a haunt of jackals,
    an everlasting waste;
no man shall dwell there;
    no man shall sojourn in her.”

The word of the Lord that came to Jeremiah the prophet concerning Elam, in the beginning of the reign of Zedekiah king of Judah.

Thus says the Lord of hosts: “Behold, I will break the bow of Elam, the mainstay of their might. And I will bring upon Elam the four winds from the four quarters of heaven. And I will scatter them to all those winds, and there shall be no nation to which those driven out of Elam shall not come. I will terrify Elam before their enemies and before those who seek their life. I will bring disaster upon them, my fierce anger, declares the Lord. I will send the sword after them, until I have consumed them, and I will set my throne in Elam and destroy their king and officials, declares the Lord.

“But in the latter days I will restore the fortunes of Elam, declares the Lord.” –  Jeremiah 49:23-39 ESV

Damascus, Kedar, Hazor, and Elam. Not exactly household names to most of us. But in Jeremiah’s day, they were cities of renown. They each were famous for their own reason. Damascus was the capital city of Aramea, and is even referred to by God as “That famous city, a city of joy” (Jeremiah 49:25 NLT). We are not provided with any details regarding the source of their fame, but Damascus located on a vital trade route known as the King’s Highway that extended from the capital city through Moab and Edom to the Gulf of Arabah. No doubt, Damascus was a cosmopolitan city, filled with the sounds of trade, the languages of many languages, and all the excesses that come with financial success. But God informs them that their destruction is immanent. Their fifteen minutes of fame are about to come to an end. And, according to God, their demise is as good as done.

“Damascus has become feeble,
    and all her people turn to flee.” – Jeremiah 49:24 NLT

The Arameans had long been a source of contention for the people of Israel. All the way back to the reigns of David and Solomon, the Arameans and a coalition of other city-states, had been a thorn in the side of the Istaelites. David would conquer and capture the city (2 Samuel 8:5-6), but they would later cast off Israelite sovereignty during the reign of Solomon. But the city of Damascus, known for its beauty, would become a wasteland, forsaken and forgotten.

“Her young men will fall in the streets and die.
    Her soldiers will all be killed,”
    says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies.
“And I will set fire to the walls of Damascus
    that will burn up the palaces of Ben-hadad.” – Jeremiah 49:26-27 NLT

And now God turns His attention to the people of Kedar and Hazor. What was the significance of these two relatively obscure cities? Well, it seems that they were not cities at all, but the names of two different Arabic tribes. If we turn to the book of Genesis, we find out that the Kedarites were actually the descendants of Ishmael, the half-brother of Isaac.

These are the generations of Ishmael, Abraham's son, whom Hagar the Egyptian, Sarah's servant, bore to Abraham. These are the names of the sons of Ishmael, named in the order of their birth: Nebaioth, the firstborn of Ishmael; and Kedar, Adbeel, Mibsam, Mishma, Dumah, Massa, Hadad, Tema, Jetur, Naphish, and Kedemah. – Genesis 25:12-15 NLT

We know little about the Hazorites, but must assume that they were yet another Arabic tribe that had partnered with the Kedarites to form a strategic alliance. Unlike the people of Damascus, the Kedarites and Hazorites were nomadic people who were, for the most part, sheep herders who dwelled in unwalled cities consisting primarily of tents. What part had they played in the life of the people of God that would warrant God’s wrath and their destruction? God refers to them as “the warriors from the East” (Jeremiah 49:27 NLT). They were part of an alliance of other nation states and tribes, including the Midianites and Amalekites, who joined forces to attack the people of Israel during the days of the judge, Gideon.

Whenever the Israelites planted their crops, marauders from Midian, Amalek, and the people of the east would attack Israel, camping in the land and destroying crops as far away as Gaza. They left the Israelites with nothing to eat, taking all the sheep, goats, cattle, and donkeys. These enemy hordes, coming with their livestock and tents, were as thick as locusts; they arrived on droves of camels too numerous to count. And they stayed until the land was stripped bare. So Israel was reduced to starvation by the Midianites. – Judges 6:3-6 NLT

And God makes it very clear what their punishment would be:

“Their flocks and tents will be captured,
    and their household goods and camels will be taken away.” – Jeremiah 49:29 NLT

They had harassed the people of God in order to feed their flocks and camels, leaving the Israelites in a state of starvation. Now, God was going to pay them back. He would bring King Nebuchadnezzar and the Babylonians, who would strip them of all their flocks and possessions. They would end up running for their lives in an attempt to escape the wrath of God in the form of the Babylonian forces. But they would fail.

Finally, God wraps up this oracle with a word concerning Elam. The Elamites occupied the land which is now part of modern Iran. They were the descendants of Shem, one of the sons of Noah (Genesis 10:22). They lived in the area known as Mesopotamia and it is not exactly clear why they are included in this oracle of judgment by God. But it is safe to say, that God had His reasons. One of the interesting facts is that the Elamites at one time conquered the land of Ur, the ancestral homeland of the Israel patriarch, Abraham. Perhaps this played a role in God’s decision. We don’t know and are not provided with details. We do know that they played a part in an attack on the city of Jerusalem and were known for their archers and chariots (Isaiah 22:6). Which is why God says, “I will destroy the archers of Elam—the best of their forces” (Jeremiah 49:35 NLT). According to the book of Isaiah, Elam was one of the places to which the people of Israel were exiled and from which they would return

In that day the Lord will reach out his hand a second time
    to bring back the remnant of his people—
those who remain in Assyria and northern Egypt;
    in southern Egypt, Ethiopia, and Elam;
    in Babylonia, Hamath, and all the distant coastlands. – Isaiah 22:11 NLT

Whatever their role had been, the Elamites would be held responsible by God. Their poor treatment of God’s people had not gone unnoticed and would they would go unpunished.

“I myself will go with Elam’s enemies to shatter it.
    In my fierce anger, I will bring great disaster
    upon the people of Elam,” says the Lord. – Jeremiah 49:37 NLT

But God makes an interesting disclosure at the very end of this oracle concerning Elam. He tells them that He will restore their fortunes in the days to come. We are not told why. But it provides a picture of God’s grace and mercy, even in light of the wickedness of the nations. There is a future point in time, at which God will restore things to their original state. He will send His Son a second time, this time to rule and reign on the earth as the King of kings and Lord of lords. He will set up His Kingdom in Jerusalem and restore the people of Israel to power and prominence. No longer will the nations rise up in opposition to Israel. Instead, they will bow down in submission to the God of the Israelites.

Turn to me so you can be delivered,
all you who live in the earth’s remote regions!
For I am God, and I have no peer.
I solemnly make this oath—
what I say is true and reliable:
‘Surely every knee will bow to me,
every tongue will solemnly affirm;
they will say about me,
“Yes, the Lord is a powerful deliverer.”’”
All who are angry at him will cower before him.
All the descendants of Israel will be vindicated by the Lord
and will boast in him. – Isaiah 45:22-25 NLT

God will win the day. His Son will rule the world. The nations will bow down before Him. And God’s promises and plans concerning the people of Israel will be fully and completely fulfilled. Why? Because God is faithful and true.  

English Standard Version (ESV)
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

New Living Translation (NLT)
Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

The Message (MSG)

Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

The Just God.

I have heard a message from the Lord,
    and an envoy has been sent among the nations:
“Gather yourselves together and come against her,
    and rise up for battle!
For behold, I will make you small among the nations,
    despised among mankind.
The horror you inspire has deceived you,
    and the pride of your heart,
you who live in the clefts of the rock,
    who hold the height of the hill.
Though you make your nest as high as the eagle's,
    I will bring you down from there,
declares the Lord.

“Edom shall become a horror. Everyone who passes by it will be horrified and will hiss because of all its disasters. As when Sodom and Gomorrah and their neighboring cities were overthrown, says the Lord, no man shall dwell there, no man shall sojourn in her. Behold, like a lion coming up from the jungle of the Jordan against a perennial pasture, I will suddenly make him run away from her. And I will appoint over her whomever I choose. For who is like me? Who will summon me? What shepherd can stand before me? Therefore hear the plan that the Lord has made against Edom and the purposes that he has formed against the inhabitants of Teman: Even the little ones of the flock shall be dragged away. Surely their fold shall be appalled at their fate. At the sound of their fall the earth shall tremble; the sound of their cry shall be heard at the Red Sea. Behold, one shall mount up and fly swiftly like an eagle and spread his wings against Bozrah, and the heart of the warriors of Edom shall be in that day like the heart of a woman in her birth pains.” – Jeremiah 49:14-22 ESV

Edom’s destruction was inevitable and unavoidable. God was going to deal them a fatal blow that would leave them permanently eliminated as a nation. They would suffer a fate similar to that of the sinful cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. While those two cities experienced supernatural destruction in the form of fire and burning sulfur falling from the sky, the cities of Edom would fall to the sword as the Babylonians swept through their land. Their fortified cities, well-protected by their seemingly impregnable locations on the cliff tops, would eventually succumb to the relentless pressure of Nebuchadnezzar’s forces.

“You live in a rock fortress
    and control the mountain heights.
But even if you make your nest among the peaks with the eagles,
    I will bring you crashing down,”
    says the Lord. – Jeremiah 49:16 NLT

There was not going to be any place of safety or seclusion from God’s wrath. They could hide, but God would find them. They could place their hope and trust in their fortified cities, but they would prove worthless against the sovereign will of God. And God makes it clear that He will be the one behind the fall of Edom.

“I will come like a lion from the thickets of the Jordan,
    leaping on the sheep in the pasture.
I will chase Edom from its land,
    and I will appoint the leader of my choice.
For who is like me, and who can challenge me?
    What ruler can oppose my will?” – Jeremiah 49:19 NLT

Who can stand against God? Who is capable of withstanding His judgment when it comes? In the face of God’s discipline and overwhelming power, the pride and arrogance of man is exposed for what it is: Weak and pathetic. Even the most powerful kings are nothing when compared to the God of the universe. The most secure and well-protected cities cannot stand the onslaught of a God whose will has called for their destruction. A legion of false gods will prove to be no match for Yahweh, the Lord of Hosts.

“The earth will shake with the noise of Edom’s fall,
    and its cry of despair will be heard all the way to the Red Sea.” – Jeremiah 49:21 NLT

As has been the case with God’s oracles against Egypt, Philistia, Moab and Ammon, He makes it clear that the people of Edom will be defenseless before Him. They will have no chance. They will have no hope. The will of God and the word of God will be fulfilled – just as He has said. And that should be a source of encouragement to the remnant of the people of Judah. While they themselves had suffered greatly at His hands, they should find comfort in knowing that God was going to pay back all those who had turned their backs on Judah, or who had taken advantage of their predicament. In spite of the unfaithfulness of Judah, God was still watching out for them. He was still holding all of their enemies accountable, and meting out the justice they deserved.

All of this was part of God’s plan.

“Listen to the Lord’s plans against Edom
    and the people of Teman.
Even the little children will be dragged off like sheep,
    and their homes will be destroyed.” – Jeremiah 49:20 NLT

Yes, His plan involved death and destruction. Many would suffer, including innocent children. But the sin of men has always had consequences. Rebellion against God has always carried a stiff price. And when we choose to ignore His will and His Word, there will always be ramifications. And while we may sometimes feel that the wicked get away with murder, both literally and figuratively, God is always watching. He is fully aware of what is going on. Nothing escapes His all-seeing gaze. And even if we may sense that He is ignorant of what is going on or simply indifferent to the wickedness taking place in the world, God is all-knowing and has a plan for dealing with all those who live in disobedience to His will or set themselves up as enemies of His people.

I said to myself, "In due season God will judge everyone, both good and bad, for all their deeds." – Ecclesiastes 3:17 NLT

God will judge us for everything we do, including every secret thing, whether good or bad. – Ecclesiastes 12:14 NLT

It was King David who wrote so eloquently concerning the justice righteous judgment of God.

God is my shield,
    saving those whose hearts are true and right.
God is an honest judge.
    He is angry with the wicked every day.

If a person does not repent,
    God will sharpen his sword;
    he will bend and string his bow.
He will prepare his deadly weapons
    and shoot his flaming arrows.

The wicked conceive evil;
    they are pregnant with trouble
    and give birth to lies.
They dig a deep pit to trap others,
    then fall into it themselves.
The trouble they make for others backfires on them.
    The violence they plan falls on their own heads.

I will thank the Lord because he is just;
    I will sing praise to the name of the Lord Most High. – Psalm 7:10-17 NLT

English Standard Version (ESV)
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

New Living Translation (NLT)
Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

The Message (MSG)

Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

The End of the Edomites.


Concerning Edom.

Thus says the Lord of hosts:

“Is wisdom no more in Teman?
    Has counsel perished from the prudent?
    Has their wisdom vanished?
Flee, turn back, dwell in the depths,
    O inhabitants of Dedan!
For I will bring the calamity of Esau upon him,
    the time when I punish him.
If grape gatherers came to you,
    would they not leave gleanings?
If thieves came by night,
    would they not destroy only enough for themselves?
But I have stripped Esau bare;
    I have uncovered his hiding places,
    and he is not able to conceal himself.
His children are destroyed, and his brothers,
    and his neighbors; and he is no more.
Leave your fatherless children; I will keep them alive;
    and let your widows trust in me.”

For thus says the Lord: “If those who did not deserve to drink the cup must drink it, will you go unpunished? You shall not go unpunished, but you must drink. For I have sworn by myself, declares the Lord, that Bozrah shall become a horror, a taunt, a waste, and a curse, and all her cities shall be perpetual wastes.” Jeremiah 49:7-13 ESV

Now, God turns His attention to the Edomites, descendants of Esau, the twin brother of Jacob, and the son of Isaac. Just before the boys were to be born, God spoke to Rebekah and told her:

“Two nations are in your womb,
    and two peoples from within you shall be divided;
the one shall be stronger than the other,
    the older shall serve the younger.” – Genesis 25:23 ESV

The two babies, we are told in Genesis, “struggled together within her” and when they were born, Esau came out first, but Jacob was clutching his brother’s heal. This was a premonition of what the relationship between these two boys would be like. The story goes on to describe Jacob’s eventual deception of his brother, in order to get him to give up his birthright. Then Rebekah and Jacob concocted a plan to deceive Isaac into giving to Jacob the blessing reserved for the firstborn. While their plan worked, it resulted in Jacob having to go into exile to escape the wrath of Esau. While the brothers eventually mended their personal grudge, the descendants of Esau would prove to be a constant source of trouble for the people of Israel. In fact, when they eventually made it back to Canaan after their 40 years of wandering in the wilderness after their exodus from Egypt, they were not given a warm welcome by the Edomites.

Moses sent messengers from Kadesh to the king of Edom: “Thus says your brother Israel: You know all the hardship that we have met: how our fathers went down to Egypt, and we lived in Egypt a long time. And the Egyptians dealt harshly with us and our fathers. And when we cried to the Lord, he heard our voice and sent an angel and brought us out of Egypt. And here we are in Kadesh, a city on the edge of your territory. Please let us pass through your land. We will not pass through field or vineyard, or drink water from a well. We will go along the King's Highway. We will not turn aside to the right hand or to the left until we have passed through your territory.” But Edom said to him, “You shall not pass through, lest I come out with the sword against you.” And the people of Israel said to him, “We will go up by the highway, and if we drink of your water, I and my livestock, then I will pay for it. Let me only pass through on foot, nothing more.” But he said, “You shall not pass through.” And Edom came out against them with a large army and with a strong force. Thus Edom refused to give Israel passage through his territory, so Israel turned away from him. – Numbers 20:14-21 ESV

In the prophesies of Obadiah, we are given further insights into the reasons for God’s coming judgment on the Edomites.

“You have been deceived by your own pride
    because you live in a rock fortress
    and make your home high in the mountains.
‘Who can ever reach us way up here?’
    you ask boastfully.” – Obadiah 1:3 NLT

“Because of the violence you did
    to your close relatives in Israel,
you will be filled with shame
    and destroyed forever.
When they were invaded,
    you stood aloof, refusing to help them.
Foreign invaders carried off their wealth
    and cast lots to divide up Jerusalem,
    but you acted like one of Israel’s enemies.” – Obadiah 1:10-11 NLT

The Edomites were prideful and arrogant, convinced that they were invincible in their mountain fortress. But there would be no place they could hide from the wrath of God. They had made the mistake of turning against the people of God, their very own relatives. When Israel had been attacked, they looked the other way, refusing to come to their aid. And God was going to repay them for their cold-hearted abandonment of Israel. His destruction would be complete. Nothing and no one would be spared. While grape gatherers might leave some gleanings in the field for the poor, God would leave nothing behind for the survivors in Edom. While a thief might be willing to leave a few things untouched, God was going to completely wipe Edom out. There would be nothing left when the judgment of God was complete.

“But I will strip bare the land of Edom,
    and there will be no place left to hide.
Its children, its brothers, and its neighbors
    will all be destroyed,
    and Edom itself will be no more.” – Jeremiah 49:10 NLT

But in the midst of all the devastation, notice the words of the Lord:

“But I will protect the orphans who remain among you.
    Your widows, too, can depend on me for help.” – Jeremiah 49:11 NLT

Even in His wrath, God will show mercy on the helpless, those who have no advocate and who are seen as outcasts within the community. God assures the widows and orphans that they will have Him as their protector and provider. Even in the midst of all the devastation, they will somehow be preserved by the merciful hand of God.

These pronouncements of doom are difficult for us to read and even harder for us to comprehend. They seem to paint God in a very negative light, portraying Him as a hateful, vengeful deity who uses His omnipotence to wreak havoc on mankind. We view His judgments from our limited human perspective and deem them as little more than the actions of some kind of divine playground bully. But there are things we cannot see. There are behind-the-scenes plots to which we are oblivious. And there is a plan that God has devised from before the foundation of the world that He is implementing and of which we are not privy. And while we might find it easy to question God’s motives or wonder about His methodologies, we must always remember that He is God and we are not. His ways are not our ways. His judgments are always right and good. His actions in regards to mankind are always righteous and beyond reproach. And as difficult as it may be for us to comprehend His ways, we have no right to question His integrity or doubt His goodness.

He is the Rock; his deeds are perfect. Everything he does is just and fair. He is a faithful God who does no wrong; how just and upright he is! – Deuteronomy 32:4 NLT

The LORD is righteous in everything he does; he is filled with kindness. – Psalm 145:17 NLT

“Listen to me, you who have understanding. Everyone knows that God doesn’t sin! The Almighty can do no wrong.” – Job 34:10 NLT

One of the problems we face as human beings is our inability to see past the here-and-now. We are not omniscient. We lack the ability to see into the future and view how everything will turn out. So, we are left to deal with what we can see. But looks can always be deceiving. What may appear as unjust and unfair may actually be the righteous and fully just actions of God. We simply can’t see the ultimate outcome. But it always pays to give God the benefit of the doubt. It is wise to trust that He knows best and that His ways are perfect. In time, we will see the method behind His seeming madness. We will one day have the ability to look back and see how the gracious, merciful and loving hand of God was working all things together for our good and His glory.

English Standard Version (ESV)
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

New Living Translation (NLT)
Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

The Message (MSG)

Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson


Justice and Mercy.

Concerning the Ammonites.

Thus says the Lord:

“Has Israel no sons?
    Has he no heir?
Why then has Milcom dispossessed Gad,
    and his people settled in its cities?
Therefore, behold, the days are coming,
    declares the Lord,
when I will cause the battle cry to be heard
    against Rabbah of the Ammonites;
it shall become a desolate mound,
    and its villages shall be burned with fire;
then Israel shall dispossess those who dispossessed him,
    says the Lord.

“Wail, O Heshbon, for Ai is laid waste!
    Cry out, O daughters of Rabbah!
Put on sackcloth,
    lament, and run to and fro among the hedges!
For Milcom shall go into exile,
    with his priests and his officials.
Why do you boast of your valleys,
    O faithless daughter,
who trusted in her treasures, saying,
    ‘Who will come against me?’
Behold, I will bring terror upon you,
    declares the Lord God of hosts,
    from all who are around you,
and you shall be driven out, every man straight before him,
    with none to gather the fugitives.

“But afterward I will restore the fortunes of the Ammonites, declares the Lord.” Jeremiah 49:1-6 ESV

Now, God turns His attention to the Ammonites. They were a relatively small kingdom located to the north and east of Moab. If you recall, their king, Baalis, was the one who plotted with Ishmael to have Gedaliah, the Babylonian-appointed governor of Judah, assassinated. The Ammonites had also taken advantage of the fall of the northern kingdom of Israel and had moved in and taken over many of their abandoned cities. Like the Moabites, the Ammonites were opportunistic, even working with the Babylonians when they invaded the land of Judah, offering their services as mercenaries. But they would also plot against King Nebuchadnezzar, a decision that would be in direct conflict with God’s will. So, not only had they taken advantage of Israel’s fall to Assyria, they were profiting from Judah’s troubles with Babylon. Then when they saw that Babylon had every intention of bringing all of Palestine under their domain, they determined to rebel against them. But God had other plans for Ammon.

The first thing God addressed is their occupation of land belonging to the tribe of Gad.

“Are there no descendants of Israel
    to inherit the land of Gad?
Why are you, who worship Molech,
    living in its towns?” – Jeremiah 49:1 NLT

When Israel had fallen to the Assyrians and the people had been removed as slaves to Assyria, the Ammonites had moved into their deserted cities. But as far as God was concerned, that land still belonged to Israel. He had given it to them. And just because He had chosen to punish them for their sin and unfaithfulness, did not give the Ammonites the right to take the land as their own. On top of that, God was not going to tolerate them giving the credit for their “victory” to their false god, Molech, and setting up shrines to worship him in land that belonged to the people of Israel. So, God warns the Ammonites about what was going to happen.

“I will sound the battle cry against your city of Rabbah.
It will become a desolate heap of ruins,
    and the neighboring towns will be burned.
Then Israel will take back the land
    you took from her,” says the Lord.” – Jeremiah 49:2 NLT

God tells them to weep and mourn, because their fall is certain and He delivers some devastatingly bad news: “your god Molech, with his priests and officials, will be hauled off to distant lands” (Jeremiah 49:3 NLT). Like the Moabites, they had suffered from pride and arrogance. They thought they were untouchable and that their success would be ongoing. They had enjoyed much success and had been blessed by living in a fertile land that produced plenty of food and met all their needs. But they had not been satisfied. They got greedy and wanted more. So, God levels His accusation against them.

“You trusted in your wealth,
    you rebellious daughter,
    and thought no one could ever harm you.” – Jeremiah 49:4 NLT

Notice that God refers to the Ammonites as a “rebellious daughter.” This is most likely due to the fact that they were, like the Moabites, distant relatives of the Israelites. This all began with Lot, the nephew of Abraham. When Abraham and Lot were forced to part ways because their herds had increased to such a degree that they could no longer share the same land, Abraham gave Lot the first choice of the land. Lot, being somewhat greedy, chose the best land. But then we find that he settled near the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. Eventually, he moved into Sodom and raised his two daughters there. But when God eventually destroyed these two wicked cities, He rescued Lot and his two daughters. But in the immediate aftermath of this terrible event, Lot’s two daughters got him drunk and had incestuous relations with him. The byproduct of these immoral acts were two sons: Moab and Ben-Ammi, from whom the Ammonites were descendants. The Moabites and Ammonites, while relatives of the Israelites, would prove to be a constant problem for them. And because they were technically related to the Jews, God would treat them like rebellious daughters, wayward children who needed His divine discipline.

And while they thought they were untouchable, God let’s them know that they will suffer greatly for their idolatry, pride and rebellion against His will.

“But look! I will bring terror upon you,”
    says the Lord, the Lord of Heaven’s Armies.
“Your neighbors will chase you from your land,
    and no one will help your exiles as they flee.” – Jeremiah 49:5 NLT

They would suffer the same fate as the peoples of Israel and Judah. Their fertile valleys would become vacant and their once-productive fields would lay fallow. Their great cities would be destroyed and then occupied by outsiders. Their pride would be shattered. Their fame would fade. Their fortunes would be reversed. But then, God provides them with good news.

“But I will restore the fortunes of the Ammonites
    in days to come.
    I, the Lord, have spoken.” – Jeremiah 49:6 NLT

Just as God had promised to Egypt and Moab, He promises to restore Ammon. While this promise was partially fulfilled when the people of God returned to the land after their 70-year exile, this will actually take place when Christ sets up His millennial kingdom on earth. It will be a time of peace and prosperity, and Christ will reign in justice over all the land. But it is important to recognize that any blessings these nations will enjoy will because God has chosen to bless Israel. He will restore Israel to favor and return them to the land of promise, where they will reign alongside their Messiah. He will give them new hearts and a new capacity to worship Him in faithfulness and perfect obedience. He will do for them what they could never have done for themselves. And for the first time in history, the people of God will be examples of true godliness for the nations of the world. They will be a blessing to all those around them, because they will be totally obedient to God, serving Him with their whole hearts.

English Standard Version (ESV)
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

New Living Translation (NLT)
Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

The Message (MSG)

Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson


Terror, Pit and Snare.

“For every head is shaved and every beard cut off. On all the hands are gashes, and around the waist is sackcloth. On all the housetops of Moab and in the squares there is nothing but lamentation, for I have broken Moab like a vessel for which no one cares, declares the Lord. How it is broken! How they wail! How Moab has turned his back in shame! So Moab has become a derision and a horror to all that are around him.”

For thus says the Lord:
“Behold, one shall fly swiftly like an eagle
    and spread his wings against Moab;
the cities shall be taken
    and the strongholds seized.
The heart of the warriors of Moab shall be in that day
    like the heart of a woman in her birth pains;
Moab shall be destroyed and be no longer a people,
    because he magnified himself against the Lord.
Terror, pit, and snare
    are before you, O inhabitant of Moab!
declares the Lord.
He who flees from the terror
    shall fall into the pit,
and he who climbs out of the pit
    shall be caught in the snare.
For I will bring these things upon Moab,
    the year of their punishment,
declares the Lord.

“In the shadow of Heshbon
    fugitives stop without strength,
for fire came out from Heshbon,
    flame from the house of Sihon;
it has destroyed the forehead of Moab,
    the crown of the sons of tumult.
Woe to you, O Moab!
    The people of Chemosh are undone,
for your sons have been taken captive,
    and your daughters into captivity.
Yet I will restore the fortunes of Moab
    in the latter days, declares the Lord.”
Thus far is the judgment on Moab. Jeremiah 48:37-47 ESV

The destruction of Moab is as good as done. God has described it in vivid terms that leave little to the imagination. But the precise moment when it will all take place remains a mystery. That will come suddenly and as a surprise. “The enemy swoops down like an eagle, spreading his wings over Moab” (Jeremiah 48:40 NLT). And the results will be devastating, leaving the people of Moab in a state of mourning. They will shave their heads and cut off their beards. They will practice self-mutilation, cutting their hands. Their once sumptuous clothing will be exchanged for sackcloth, another sign of mourning. In the streets and on the rooftops, the sound of wailing will be heard. The loss of life will be great. The fall of Moab will be more than its citizens can imagine or bear. 

“How it is shattered! Hear the wailing! See the shame of Moab! It has become an object of ridicule, an example of ruin to all its neighbors.” – Jeremiah 48:39 NLT

Moab would become an object lesson to all the other nations surrounding them. They would witness the fall of Moab and respond with either ridicule or pity. But they would not miss the unmistakable and unbelievable greatness of Moab’s fall. The devastation of Moab would be comprehensive and complete. Nothing and no one would be spared.

“Its cities will fall,
    and its strongholds will be seized.
Even the mightiest warriors will be in anguish
    like a woman in labor.
Moab will no longer be a nation,
    for it has boasted against the Lord.” – Jeremiah 48:41-42 NLT

And the reason for their fall is clearly stated by God. They had boasted against Him. They had set themselves up as opposing Him. These descendants of Lot, the nephew of Abraham, had abandoned Yahweh for the worship of Chemosh, a god of their own making. Not only that, they had taken sides with the Babylonians when they invaded Judah. They had used the invasion as an opportunity to kick Judah while they were down. And in doing so, they had attacked the people of God. This was not something God would allow. All the way back in the book of Genesis, we have recorded God’s covenant with Abraham, when He called him out of Ur.

“I will bless those who bless you and curse those who treat you with contempt.” – Genesis 12:3 NLT

Later on, Isaac would pass that same promise on to his son, Isaac.

“All who curse you will be cursed, and all who bless you will be blessed.” – Genesis 27:29 NLT

And God would honor that commitment. He would stand by the people of Israel for generations. He would patiently endure their unfaithfulness and disobedience. He would bless them even when they failed to keep His commands and, instead, chose to worship false gods. And while God would eventually discipline His people and use foreign nations to do so, He would still hold responsible all those who harmed His people in any way. That included Babylon and Moab.And there would be no escape.

Once the terror began, there would be nowhere to run. Any attempt to escape God’s judgment would be like a frightened animal running from its pursuer, only to fall into a pit. And if the animal was lucky enough to escape the pit, it would only find itself caught in a snare. It’s fate was sealed. And so was that of Moab.

“Those who flee in terror will fall into a trap,
    and those who escape the trap will step into a snare.
I will see to it that you do not get away,
    for the time of your judgment has come,”
    says the Lord.” – Jeremiah 48:44 NLT

But just as was the case with Egypt, God promises to restore Moab at some future date. This will take place in a partial sense after the people of God are returned to the land after their 70 years in exile. But the complete fulfillment of this promise will take place in Christ’s millennial kingdom.

“But I will restore the fortunes of Moab
    in days to come.
    I, the Lord, have spoken!” – Jeremiah 48:47 NLT

The ways of God are difficult to understand. His methods seem strange to us. Why would He call on a nation to punish His people, then turn around and punish that nation for having done exactly what He wanted? We have to understand that none of these nations did what they did out of love for Yahweh. They were acting out of their own selfish interests. They were participating in the will of God unknowingly. Their motives were purely selfish. And because they did what they did out of hatred for the people of God, they would be punished for the tole they played. But God, who is great in mercy, will one day restore these very same people and allow them to not only return to their land, but to come to Him.

The book of Revelation records a remarkable event that will take place in the distant future. It reveals a time when all the nations of the earth will stand before the throne of God, worshiping Him for who He is.

After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” – Revelation 7:9-10 ESV

Just a few chapters earlier in John’s Book of the Revelation, he records yet another future scene. He describes seeing a figure who is clearly a representation of the resurrected Christ.

“Then I saw a Lamb that looked as if it had been slaughtered, but it was now standing between the throne and the four living beings and among the twenty-four elders.” – Revelation 5:6 NLT

John describes the Lamb as coming to the throne of God and taking from His Father’s hand a scroll.

“He stepped forward and took the scroll from the right hand of the one sitting on the throne. And when he took the scroll, the four living beings and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb.” – Revelation 5:7-8 NLT

And the four living beings and the 24 elders sing a song.

“You are worthy to take the scroll and break its seals and open it. For you were slaughtered, and your blood has ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation.

And you have caused them to become a Kingdom of priests for our God. And they will reign on the earth.” – Revelation 5:9-10 NLT

From a terror, pit and a snare to a Kingdom of priests. From running for their lives to reigning with Christ. From guilt to innocence. From captivity to freedom. That is how our God works. His ways are not our ways. His means and methods are strange to us. But He is a good God who has a perfect plan that will involve Him blessing people from every tribe, nation and tongue. In spite of man’s unfaithfulness, God will faithfully restore a remnant from every people group on earth and make them a part of His eternal Kingdom.

English Standard Version (ESV)
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

New Living Translation (NLT)
Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

The Message (MSG)

Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson


The Theology of Glory.

“Judgment has come upon the tableland, upon Holon, and Jahzah, and Mephaath, and Dibon, and Nebo, and Beth-diblathaim, and Kiriathaim, and Beth-gamul, and Beth-meon, and Kerioth, and Bozrah, and all the cities of the land of Moab, far and near. The horn of Moab is cut off, and his arm is broken, declares the Lord.

“Make him drunk, because he magnified himself against the Lord, so that Moab shall wallow in his vomit, and he too shall be held in derision. Was not Israel a derision to you? Was he found among thieves, that whenever you spoke of him you wagged your head?

“Leave the cities, and dwell in the rock,
    O inhabitants of Moab!
Be like the dove that nests
    in the sides of the mouth of a gorge.
We have heard of the pride of Moab—
    he is very proud—
of his loftiness, his pride, and his arrogance,
    and the haughtiness of his heart.
I know his insolence, declares the Lord;
    his boasts are false,
    his deeds are false.
Therefore I wail for Moab;
    I cry out for all Moab;
    for the men of Kir-hareseth I mourn.
More than for Jazer I weep for you,
    O vine of Sibmah!
Your branches passed over the sea,
    reached to the Sea of Jazer;
on your summer fruits and your grapes
    the destroyer has fallen.
Gladness and joy have been taken away
    from the fruitful land of Moab;
I have made the wine cease from the winepresses;
    no one treads them with shouts of joy;
    the shouting is not the shout of joy.

“From the outcry at Heshbon even to Elealeh, as far as Jahaz they utter their voice, from Zoar to Horonaim and Eglath-shelishiyah. For the waters of Nimrim also have become desolate. And I will bring to an end in Moab, declares the Lord, him who offers sacrifice in the high place and makes offerings to his god. Therefore my heart moans for Moab like a flute, and my heart moans like a flute for the men of Kir-hareseth. Therefore the riches they gained have perished.” Jeremiah 48:21-36 ESV

The Moabites were evidently a prideful people. And, as God continues His oracle against them, He focuses His attention on that particular characteristic. They were a nation that had experienced its fair share of success. They had enjoyed a relatively peaceful existence and had developed a reputation for being excellent vintners. Their wine was of an excellent quality and was highly sought after. God has already used weaved into His oracle several references to wine.

“Moab has been at ease from his youth
    and has settled on his dregs;
he has not been emptied from vessel to vessel…” – Jeremiah 48:11 ESV

…I shall send to him pourers who will pour him, and empty his vessels and break his jars in pieces.” – Jeremiah 48:12 ESV

And God is not done. He continues to utilize references to wine as declares His coming judgment against Moab.

“Make him drunk, because he magnified himself against the Lord, so that Moab shall wallow in his vomit, and he too shall be held in derision.” – Jeremiah 48:26 ESV

The Moabites would become like a man who drinks wine with a care-free attitude, seemingly without a problem in the world, only to end up staggering drunk and walloing in his own vomit. And God makes it clear that the real issue behind His anger with Moab is their insolence and pride. They saw themselves an blessed in some way. Perhaps they believed that their false god, Chemosh, was the source of their ongoing success. They probably believed that their worship of him had brought them peace and prosperity. And as they found themselves enjoying relatively good times and a trouble-free existence, they began to believe that they were invincible and destined for further greatness.

This kind of attitude is what Martin Luther referred to as “the theology of glory.” It was a religious belief put man at the center of all things. A theology of glory makes the god who is being worshiped, a distributor of blessings. He becomes like a grand gift-giver, who hands out health, wealth, happiness and success to those who worship him well. Pleasing your god brings you his pleasure, in the form of tangible blessings, like protection, ease, comfort, victories over your enemies, and a trouble-free existence. In a theology of glory, there is no place for pain, suffering, sickness or struggle. Those are the signs of a displeased deity. And they are to be avoided at all costs.

But the Moabites were about to discover that Yahweh, the God of the Jews, was not happy with them. Their theology of glory did not take into account the one-and-only God of the universe. He had had enough of their pride, arrogance, and self-inflated sense of self-importance.

“We have all heard of the pride of Moab,
    for his pride is very great.
We know of his lofty pride,
    his arrogance, and his haughty heart.
I know about his insolence,”
    says the Lord,
“but his boasts are empty—
    as empty as his deeds.” – Jeremiah 48:29-30 NLT

Their theology of glory was about to run headlong into the theology of God’s judgment. Their prideful arrogance was going to be dealt a deadly blow by God’s righteous indignation. And once again, God reverts back to His wine comparisons.

“Joy and gladness are gone from fruitful Moab.
    The presses yield no wine.
No one treads the grapes with shouts of joy.
    There is shouting, yes, but not of joy.” – Jeremiah 48:33 NLT

They had believed that they were blessed by their god. They had been convinced that Chemosh was happy with them and it had shown up in all kinds of ways. Their wines were shipped across the seas and the profits flowed back into their hands. Their wealth had increased. Their reputation had grown. And their pride had swelled. But God has bad news for them. “Therefore the riches they gained have perished” (Jeremiah 48:36 ESV). When He was done with them, their pride would be broken, their vineyards destroyed, their reputation sullied, their wealth taken from them, and their theology of glory exposed for what it is: A lie and a delusion.

They had left the one true God out of the equation. They had concocted a god of their own making. These descendants of Lot, who had at one time been worshipers of Yahweh, had determined to leave Him in the dust and seek out their own god. But their disobedience would not go unpunished forever.

“I will put an end to Moab,” says the Lord, “for the people offer sacrifices at the pagan shrines and burn incense to their false gods.” – Jeremiah 48:35 NLT

Idolatry is an abomination to God. He will not tolerate the worship of false gods. He will not put up with men who make gods of their own choosing, and who then become boastful and arrogant when they begin to believe that their success is due to their lifeless, helpless deity. God will not share His glory with anyone or anything. God will not tolerate the worship of anything other than Himself. And the pride of the Moabites had become nothing less than just another god they worshiped. They served the god of self. It was all about them – their pleasure, success, happiness, comfort, and health. But God was going to turn their pride into humiliation, their joy into sorrow, their success to failure, and their confidence into defeat.

English Standard Version (ESV)
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

New Living Translation (NLT)
Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

The Message (MSG)

Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson


Emptied From Vessel to Vessel.

“Cursed is he who does the work of the Lord with slackness, and cursed is he who keeps back his sword from bloodshed.

“Moab has been at ease from his youth
    and has settled on his dregs;
he has not been emptied from vessel to vessel,
    nor has he gone into exile;
so his taste remains in him,
    and his scent is not changed.

“Therefore, behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I shall send to him pourers who will pour him, and empty his vessels and break his jars in pieces. Then Moab shall be ashamed of Chemosh, as the house of Israel was ashamed of Bethel, their confidence.

“How do you say, ‘We are heroes
    and mighty men of war’?
The destroyer of Moab and his cities has come up,
    and the choicest of his young men have gone down to slaughter,
    declares the King, whose name is the Lord of hosts.
The calamity of Moab is near at hand,
    and his affliction hastens swiftly.
Grieve for him, all you who are around him,
    and all who know his name;
say, ‘How the mighty scepter is broken,
    the glorious staff.’

“Come down from your glory,
    and sit on the parched ground,
    O inhabitant of Dibon!
For the destroyer of Moab has come up against you;
    he has destroyed your strongholds.
Stand by the way and watch,
    O inhabitant of Aroer!
Ask him who flees and her who escapes;
    say, ‘What has happened?’
Moab is put to shame, for it is broken;
    wail and cry!
Tell it beside the Arnon,
    that Moab is laid waste.” Jeremiah 48:10-20 ESV

The heading of this particular blog post comes from a line found within God’s expanded oracle against Moab.

“Moab has been at ease from his youth
    and has settled on his dregs;
he has not been emptied from vessel to vessel…” – Jeremiah 48:11 ESV

This somewhat obscure lines is a reference to the very common practice in that day of pouring wine from one container into another in order to remove the sediments. The object was to allow the wine to sit undisturbed for a period of time, causing the sediment to settle to the bottom of the vessel. Then the contents were carefully poured into yet another vessel, allowing the impurities and dregs to remain behind. All the effort was expended in order to arrive at a sediment-free product. That is the image that God uses to describe Moab, a city known for its wine production. The wine has been allowed to settle, but there has been no one to disturb the vessel and pour its contents. In other words, God had allowed Moab to remain trouble-free for a prolonged period of time. Their geographic location had kept them off the radar screen of the various nations that had invaded Canaan over the centuries. The city of Moab was like a young child who had gotten away with all kinds of chicanery, receiving no punishment or discipline for any of the evil things they had done. But all that was about to change. The judgment of God was going to catch up with them.

Their days of complacency and casual comfort were going to come to a screeching halt.

“But the time is coming soon,” says the Lord,
    “when I will send men to pour him from his jar.
They will pour him out,
    then shatter the jar!” – Jeremiah 48:12 NLT

The jar was going to be smashed, contents and all. Over the centuries, the people of Moab had grown comfortable and complacent, trusting in their false god, Chemosh. They had been no reason to doubt that their god was all-powerful and had done a great job of protecting them from their enemies. But God had bad news for them.

“At last Moab will be ashamed of his idol Chemosh,
    as the people of Israel were ashamed of their gold calf at Bethel.” – Jeremiah 48:13 NLT

Here, God refers to an event from Israel’s history. After King Solomon had proven to be unfaithful to God, the nation of Israel was split in two, with the northern tribes forming the nation of Israel, and two of the southern tribes forming the nation of Judah. King Jeroboam, who had been the newly appointed king of Israel, out of fear that the people of Israel would want to return to Jerusalem in order to worship Yahweh at the temple, decided to make his own gods, build his own shrines, and appoint his own priests. 

So on the advice of his counselors, the king made two gold calves. He said to the people, “It is too much trouble for you to worship in Jerusalem. Look, Israel, these are the gods who brought you out of Egypt!”

He placed these calf idols in Bethel and in Dan—at either end of his kingdom. But this became a great sin, for the people worshiped the idols, traveling as far north as Dan to worship the one there. – 1 Kings 12:28-30 NLT

That shrine would remain in place for generations, until King Josiah of Judah, during many of his ongoing reforms, had it destroyed.

The king also tore down the altar at Bethel—the pagan shrine that Jeroboam son of Nebat had made when he caused Israel to sin. He burned down the shrine and ground it to dust… – 2 Kings 23:15 NLT

But from the time of Jeroboam until Josiah, the people of Israel had worshiped the golden calves that Jeroboam had erected there. And it had taken the intervention of God to bring this idolatrous practice to a close. Now, He was going to do the same thing to the god of the Moabites. They were going to learn that their much-beloved god was not match for Yahweh, the God of Israel. Chemosh would be hauled off as just another piece of booty by the Babylonian troops.

And not only would the Moabites be ashamed by the ineptitude of their god, they would find out that their once mighty army was also no match for the judgment of God.

“You used to boast, ‘We are heroes,
    mighty men of war.’
But now Moab and his towns will be destroyed.
    His most promising youth are doomed to slaughter,” – Jeremiah 48:14-15 NLT

The cities of Moab would fall. The god of Moab would be taken as property. The mighty men of Moab would be scattered and slaughtered. And the allies of Moab would be left to cry over the fate of their former neighbor. And God sarcastically taunts the people of Dibon as well, telling them:

“Come down from your glory
    and sit in the dust, you people of Dibon,
for those who destroy Moab will shatter Dibon, too.” – Jeremiah 48:18 NLT

They would be humbled and humiliated by God. Every city in Moab and all the surrounding regions would feel the full force of God’s wrath and judgment. And the devastation would be so comprehensive and complete that it would leave everyone simply asking, “What has happened there?” It will be beyond belief, like nothing anyone could have ever imagined. But God will provide the answer to the question:

“Moab lies in ruins, disgraced;
    weep and wail!
Tell it by the banks of the Arnon River:
    Moab has been destroyed!” – Jeremiah 48:20 NLT

Moab would be emptied of people, possessions and pride. Like wine poured out and its vessel smashed, Moab would find the hand of the Lord heavy and their treatment by Him devastatingly complete. God would hold nothing back. His justice and judgment would be fully meted out and no one, including the might warriors of Moab or their almighty god, Chemosh would stand in His way.

English Standard Version (ESV)
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

New Living Translation (NLT)
Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

The Message (MSG)

Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson